The Investigators

Dec 6, 2012 12:00 AM by Nichole Szemerei

Southern Arizona drivers fight for disabled parking spaces

SIERRA VISTA - After three days of trolling parking lots in Sierra Vista, the problem with handicapped parking wasn't what one would expect. People are having trouble finding spaces, but it's not only "able-bodied" drivers breaking the law.

Vans, cars and motorcycles are parked in handicapped loading zones, but it's mainly disabled drivers using them as an overflow area.

Here's what many of the responses were when asked why they were parked illegally.

"There was a vehicle over here so we decided it's for a van, it's a real big area so we parked between the lines because there wasn't any place available."

"Because there's never enough. There are so many people in southern Arizona that have these plates and no place to put them."

Others claim not to know the rules.

"I've seen everybody do it."

"Because I don't want to take up a whole spot for a car."

With all of the confusion over handicapped parking, we went to the Sierra Vista Police Department to find out what the rules really are.

"I think that they think it's still just a handicapped spot so they have a right to park there and they do, if the main portion of that spot is unoccupied," says Corporal, Scott Borgstadt.

Motorcycles on the other hand, do not have that right. It's illegal for anyone to park in a loading zone, especially without tags.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has standards for how many handicapped spots a parking lot must have. The lot we checked met the guideline.

So if that's not the problem, what is? Could drivers be misusing signage?

"They have the little thing on the mirror and not the plate, so it makes you wonder," says one driver.

Another driver agrees.

"Sometimes a vehicle will just park there that probably really shouldn't be there."
Borgstadt recalls one driver who was cited for using the placard without needing it.

"She comes running out of the store saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry I forgot to put it up and she showed me the placard. but the way that she came up to me I could tell she was not disabled so I asked her who the placard was for and she said 'my mother.'"

We also contacted the Arizona Department of Transportation to see how many placards and plates are issued in Sierra Vista, thinking maybe there are more people using them than in other cities. The response from ADOT? Not only does the organization not keep track of how many are issued, it doesn't have a record of who they're issued to, which makes it difficult for the police department to enforce the law.

"It would be nice to have some sort of database to see who the placard belongs to. If a person has a handicapped plate it would be nice to know who that plate is intended for or who the handicapped person is that should be using that spot," says Borgstadt.

Until something is changed, the disabled will just have to drive around until a marked spot is free or they could be cited.

"That's what they're going to have to do, yes if there's nothing available, or try and park as close to the front as possible."

Volunteers with the Sierra Vista Police Department have issued about 60 citations so far this year.

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