Staff Editorial: California steps up by signing new law

Photo Illustration by Sami Eshaghi / Assistant Photo Editor
Photo Illustration by Sami Eshaghi / Assistant Photo Editor

California is finally taking the constant abuse of disabled placards more seriously as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law implementing higher consequences for violators. This is only the first step toward eliminating the problem though.

The truth is, searching for an open disabled parking spot takes patience and persistence today as so many people abuse this privilege on a regular basis. The problem has not improved in many areas of Los Angeles County. It is right in front of us, yet no one takes notice.

Pull into Target and not one space will be available, yet it is beyond difficult to find a disabled person anywhere. The truly disabled have to circle around the parking lot waiting for that much needed space to become available. The problem stems from doctors writing prescriptions for people who don’t need them and from people stealing placards.

Currently, the fine for misusing a disabled placard starts at $250. The new law, which will be enforced starting Jan. 1, 2010 increases the fine to $1,000 for people who are repeat offenders. This move is key simply because it will make people think twice.

CSUN is no exception to this issue as healthy students and teachers pull their cars into these spots, but this semester there has been a noticeable shift. There seems to be a bit of relief as there are open disabled parking spaces within the many parking structures at CSUN.

This is quite a difference compared to the last three years when not one disabled parking spot was available in the B3 Parking Structure at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. or any other time during the day. This trend is something we can only hope will continue for those in need of disabled parking on our campus.

CSUN’s Department of Parking Services did take a stand when they teamed up with the Department of Motor Vehicles in 2007, ticketing drivers in a sting operation. Such an operation brings relief and there should be more planned on our campus.

Most of the disabled parking spaces are still full throughout the day, but up to five spots are open at any given time. A few open spots might not seem like a big deal, but it really is. These spots give the disabled a chance to function like the rest of society.

There needs to be more awareness and a willingness to take on this issue if it is ever going to get better. It starts with tougher laws, and local parking officials willing to question drivers and ticket those who abuse the blue placard. But a one-week sting operation just isn’t enough.

There should be an active team on the lookout for people using a family member’s placard or using an expired temporary placard.

The same amount of focus that is put on ticketing people at CSUN for a missing parking pass should be devoted to this much bigger issue affecting disabled students who can’t get to class because they can’t find a spot.

More awareness from police officers is needed because it can help one disabled person if one abuser is ticketed and loses the placard he/she stole.

Another side of the issue is that there doesn’t seem to be an understanding as to why these parking spaces are so sacred to the disabled. And so many people just don’t think twice anymore. Without these wide spaces someone who uses a wheelchair would be stuck in his/her car.

The close proximity of these spaces to classrooms, for example, allows someone who has weak legs due to muscular dystrophy or any other disease to make it to class. Less people would abuse these spots if they had this in mind.

California has been in desperate need of this law. The struggle it takes able-bodied people to find a parking spot is magnified 10 times for the disabled because people don’t think twice.