Cheating Disabled Drivers Out of Parking Spots

The problem is rampant and there is blatant misuse at Chargers games

By Artie Ojeda
|  Saturday, Oct 30, 2010  |  Updated 3:12 PM PDT
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Cheating Disabled Drivers Out of Parking Spots

AP Images

Lying about disabilities?! Tsk, tsk.

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It's downright inconsiderate, yet it happens all the time. Despite the prospect of a hefty fine, people are abusing those familiar blue handicap placards and illegally parking in spots for the disabled.

Just a few days ago, we watched as dozens of drivers were rounded up at Qualcomm before the Chargers game. They're now facing a $1,000 citation for misusing disabled parking placards.

But it’s the real disabled drivers -- the people who need those spots the most -- who are paying the biggest price.

We went on a casual afternoon drive with 24-year old Ashley Sisti of North Park. As we turned into a parking lot, a car pulled into a handicapped parking spot in front of us. That's a big deal for Sisti. She’s a paraplegic who was injured when she fell off a horse two years ago.

“It's a big issue for me. It's a day-to-day thing for me. It's part of my daily life to be able to drive somewhere and get out of the car and go inside,” Sisti said.

So we set out to see just how bad it really is. It didn’t take long to find a problem.

Outside of a strip mall in Del Mar the driver of an SUV pulled into a handicap spot as a passenger jumped out to run into Starbucks. He insisted he's not parked -- only “waiting” in the spot -- which is still illegal.

“I have great empathy for people that have a handicap and I would never take one of their places,” the driver said.

“But you're in one of their places right now,” we said.

“You don't know that. I've already answered, I'm not going to keep talking about it,” he said.

The driver pulled out of the spot. A short time later, his passenger came out -- stranded with two cups of coffee.

San Diego Police say the problem is rampant and there is blatant misuse of the placards at big events like Chargers games.

Drivers with a handicap placard get in to the lot free but then they have to show police proper verification. Officers run on-site computer checks on those without paperwork. Police say they issue between 20 and 40 citations a game for misuse of the placards.

“They have abused it, they have borrowed it from someone else and it's going to cost them at least $1,000,” said Asst. Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

All of the drivers cited at the game refused to talk to us. Maybe they would like to listen to what Ashley Sisti has to say.

“Think about the consequences of your actions. Think about what it means for you not to get those extra five minutes by not looking for another space,” Sisti said.

Not only do violators face a hefty fine, but also all of those placards at the game were confiscated for evidence. The real owners will now have to re-apply to get a new one.

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