Monday, August 31, 2009

Austin, Texas, doubles its fine to $500 for parking in disability-designated space

From the American-Statesman:

The minimum fine for parking in a handicap space without a permit placard, or with a placard “borrowed” from a qualifying person, will double Sept. 1 from $250 to $500.

Repeat offenders would see fines as high as $1,250, along with 50 hours community service, for the fourth violation, said Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant.

Elfant, who has represented Precinct 5 since 1993, has been part of lobbying efforts through the years that pushed the minimum fine to $50, then $100, then $250 and now $500. Still, Elfant said, people persist in parking in the spaces. His office will write about 1,500 such tickets this year, he said. At one point this spring, Elfant’s deputies in one day wrote 23 tickets in the area around the Capitol, many of them to people who when confronted admitted that the placard on their car was issued to someone else who was disabled.

“A couple of them said it’s just the cost of doing business,” Elfant said. “We’re hoping the $500 will change that dynamic.”

Elfant’s office, aside from having one of his deputies assigned full-time to enforcement of handicap parking, has 30 volunteers trained to give out tickets. But he said only deputies can confront someone to see if the placard belongs to them, leaving the volunteers to write tickets only for cars that park in a handicap slot with no placard.