American disabled driving laws exist to make the lives of disabled people easier. These laws even the playing field and give people with physical limitations fair access to public amenities.

Disabled driving infrastructure, such as handicap parking spaces, handicap parking permits, and wheelchair ramps, makes it possible for people with disabilities to get around and to enjoy an increased level of freedom and independence.

Disabled Driving Laws In The United States

Disabled driving laws mostly fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal act and applies nationwide. Local and state authorities also implement various handicap parking regulations that cater to the specific needs of disabled people in their jurisdiction. The job of enforcing disabled parking laws falls to local authorities, which includes local law enforcement.

Local law enforcement makes sure that disabled parking infrastructure is used properly and legally, and is not abused. Good policing by local law enforcement is essential in order for a disabled parking program to run smoothly.

As a disabled driver, it is crucial that you know how to use disabled driving infrastructure correctly. This will ensure that you stay on the right side of the law.

Disabled Parking - handicap parking sign
Image by AbsolutVision on Pixabay: Handicap parking laws exist to protect disabled drivers.

Handicap Parking Laws

Handicap parking laws exist all across the United States. They often differ slightly state by state. Even within states, different jurisdictions often have slightly different variations of handicap parking laws.

Rules For Handicap Parking Spaces

The Americans With Disabilities Act mandates several handicap parking rules that must be implemented nationwide. These include:

  • Handicap spaces must have a 60-inch-wide aisle if it’s an accessible parking space for cars or 96-inch-wide aisle if it’s an accessible parking space for vans.
  • Handicap spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route to an accessible entrance to the building or amenity they serve.
  • Parking lots must contain a certain number of handicap spaces as a percentage of total spaces.
  • Any area of on-street parking must include a number of handicap parking spaces distributed throughout the area.
  • Handicap spaces must be clearly signposted.
  • Handicap spaces must be located in places with minimum street and sidewalk slope.

What Happens If You Break Disabled Parking Rules?

There are several important rules about how handicap parking infrastructure must be used. These include:

  • Only disabled parking permit-holders may use handicap spaces.
  • Handicap parking permits must be displayed clearly when a vehicle is parked.
  • Handicap parking placards must be safely stowed when a vehicle is in motion.
  • Only the official registered holder of a handicap permit may use the permit.
  • Handicap permits must be renewed after a specified period of time.

If you break any of these rules, you are likely to receive a ticket or a fine. In extreme circumstances your vehicle could even be towed and impounded.

Disabled Parking - police
Image by Utility_Inc on Pixabay: Law enforcement protect handicap parking infrastructure from abuses.

Here are 8 tips to help disabled drivers stay on the right side of the law…

1. Always Remember To Display Your Disabled Parking Placard

I forgot to put my handicap placard up and got a ticket… This unfortunate turn of events is all too common. Handicap placards need to be properly displayed when your vehicle is parked. If you fail to display your placard, for whatever reason, law enforcement are perfectly within their rights to issue you a ticket.

2. Never Lend Your Disabled Permit To Another Person

It is an offense for anybody other than the permit holder to use a disabled permit. If you lend your permit to another person and they use it, the other person and you could receive a fine.

3. Understand Your On-Street Parking Rights In Your Area

On-street parking rules for disabled permit-holders differ in different jurisdictions. Some areas allow permit holders to park in metered, on-street spaces for free; others do not. Stay on the right side of the law by knowing where you can park for free in your jurisdiction.

4. Know How To Safely Stow Your Disabled Parking Placard

A disabled placard must be safely stowed while the vehicle is in motion. The glove compartment is usually the best place to stow your placard. If you drive with your placard still hanging from the rearview mirror, you could easily get pulled over by law enforcement.

5. Do Not Parking In Illegal Areas

A disabled parking permit does not entitle you to park anywhere you want. You will still be fined if you park in areas in which it is illegal to park. This includes bus stops, loading bays, ambulance bays, and any area that is signposted “no parking day or night”.

6. Make Sure Your Disabled Permit Is In Date

Using an out-of-date disabled parking permit is illegal. Some jurisdictions will allow permit-holders a short grace period, but generally speaking, if you want to stay on the right side of the law, you must ensure that your permit is always in date.

7. Replace A Damaged Disabled License Plate

Driving with a damaged license plate that cannot be identified is illegal. If your disabled license plate gets damaged, you must apply for a replacement in order to avoid a fine.

8. Be Polite To Parking Officers

Finally, and perhaps obviously, be polite to parking officers. They have a difficult and often stressful job, and have to put up with a lot of unfair abuse from members of the public. If you are interacting with parking officers, remain calm, polite and empathetic, and everyone will be better off.

Featured image by Ruffa Jane Reyes on Unsplash