Parking violations appalling

Contrary to its size, a short-in-length article in the May 3 Mirror was of interest to many people, including those who don’t necessarily pay close attention to what’s happening in the offices of state government and its various departments.

The reason for that interest was that, during the course of their everyday comings and goings, many people witness suspicious — if not obviously illegal — activity not unlike the illegal activity upon which the article in question focused.

Under the headline “Probe finds placards were misused,” the article reported that Pennsylvania State Police had determined that a state Department of Transportation employee had stolen a disability parking placard from work, and it’s alleged that she used it to park in spaces reserved for the disabled at her workplace.

It probably never will be known if — or at how many other places — she might have used that placard illegally.

A subsequent investigation found that seven other PennDOT employees also were misusing disability parking placards issued to family members or friends.

The probe into the alleged violations by the first employee, who is charged with theft and misuse of a placard, was triggered by a request to the state police from PennDOT’s risk-management office — and the situation snowballed from there.

The May 3 article provided no indication whether the police investigation has been completed.

Now, more about the situation from the perspective of Mirror readers:

How many readers have witnessed people, exiting or getting into the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked in a space designated for handicapped persons, whose movements or walking speed showed no indication of any disability, and who was traveling alone or with other people also without any obvious signs of disability?

Have you ever seen a handicap-parking-space driver literally dash from his or her vehicle and run into or out of a store?

That’s not to imply that there are not situations where people have disabilities that aren’t obvious from merely looking at the person. Such situations include cardiac conditions, respiratory restrictions and arthritic, neurological or orthopedic conditions.

However, many people have witnessed situations where they have had good cause for suspicion — or actually know — about drivers using a disability parking placard assigned to a spouse or someone else, without the disabled person being in, or having been in, the vehicle at that location.

Rules governing the issuance of placards and handicap license plates specify that no one besides the person to which a placard or handicap plate is issued is permitted to access the parking privileges that those items make available.

Surveillance cameras mounted outside some stores probably reveal some “interesting” situations.

It’s important to stress that there are not enough police officers to monitor the situation fully.

Every state should have a code on its driver’s licenses to indicate that a motorist has handicap-parking privileges — and also on state-issued identification cards for people who don’t drive but who have had such cards issued to them.

Handicapped people deserve the special parking privileges, but healthy people have no right to take advantage of those important spaces and deny the spaces to those truly eligible.

Hopefully, the PennDOT violators currently in proverbial hot water won’t ever forget that.