Government

More News | | | Editor

Richmond County's handicap parking enforcement lags behind Columbia County

Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 10:18 PM
Last updated Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 6:30 AM
  • Follow Latest News

Barbara Montgomery has chronic obstructive lung disease, deformed feet from diabetes, a Georgia permit that gives her special parking privileges and a gripe with the city of Augusta.

Back | Next
Jeremiah Butler enters his van at Georgia Regents University. Butler, who has a bruised spinal cord, needs an extra-wide spot to operate his van's wheelchair lift.   TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Jeremiah Butler enters his van at Georgia Regents University. Butler, who has a bruised spinal cord, needs an extra-wide spot to operate his van's wheelchair lift.

While taking her great-grandsons to Augusta Mall recently, the 69-year-old struggled to walk up the ramp from her handicapped parking spot.

Behind her was a more level handicapped parking spot, with wide access aisles.

However, that spot, next to two spaces for the “Richmond County Sheriff’s Department only,” was taken by an Isuzu Ro­deo that had neither a handicapped license plate nor a placard visible.

“It can be hard to find a quality spot,” said Mont­gomery, who is diagnosed with a condition that weakens the foot to the point where its bones can fracture and eventually change shape.

“I respect the rules and am appreciative of the privileges I have, but not everyone does and to my knowledge, not many officers enforce the laws,” Montgomery said.

An investigation by The Augusta Chronicle found that enforcement of the state law for handicapped parking is lax, at best, in Richmond County.

Since 2011, the sheriff’s office has ticketed only 28 people for handicapped parking violations. In the same period in Columbia County, 1,750 violators have been cited. The Sa­vannah, Ga., Metro Police Depart­ment, which has a coverage area comparable in size to Augusta, issued 3,238 tickets in that time.

Richmond and Columbia counties deputies follow the same ticket-writing procedures, have similar sized coverage areas – 306 square miles versus 308 square miles – and for the most part, share a population base that tops 330,000 people.

However, Columbia County puts an emphasis on enforcing the handicapped parking law. The sheriff’s office has 10 beat officers and an eight-deputy bike patrol that regularly patrols parking lots – mostly in Evans and Martinez – to ensure that vehicles in handicapped spaces have placards or disability license plates, Capt. Steve Morris said.

In Richmond County, officers typically write tickets only if they see a violation, either through their own observations or from a resident’s complaint.

Sgt. Shane Mc­Dan­iel, an office spokesman, said a downtown patrol focuses on handicapped parking laws among other violations, and some citations are filed directly with state court. However, Rich­mond County clerks said all records of handicapped parking violations are kept by the sheriff’s office.

McDaniel and Morris declined to elaborate about the disparity in tickets, saying they did not want to compare enforcement practices.

Stephanie Brice, 27, of Clarks Hill, said the proactive policing in Columbia County, where she spends the majority of her time shopping, has motivated customers to help keep people from abusing the law.

She said she frequently approaches bike deputies to point out potential lawbreakers. The tips helped lead officers to ticket a teenager using his grandmother’s permit to park closer to Wal-Mart.

“They’ll give you a ticket,” said Brice, who has had a handicapped permit since 2008, the year she had her first of five surgeries. “They mean business.”

She said she nearly got a ticket when she forgot to hang her placard from her rearview mirror.

RESIDENTS CAN APPLY for a handicapped license plate, a placard or both. There is no extra cost for a handicapped plate.

Applying involves filling out a “Disabled Person’s Par­k­­ing Af­fidavit,” said Nick Gen­esi, the communications director for the Geor­gia Department of Revenue.

He said Georgia does not track the deaths of permit holders, and an applicant doesn’t need a doctor’s note to receive a permit. However, if a permit holder dies, surviving family members are required to surrender permits. For temporary badges, applicants must provide medical updates every six months to keep their privileges.

According to the state’s traffic code, it is unlawful for any person to “stop, stand or park any vehicle in a parking place for persons with disabilities” unless it has a valid parking permit displayed.

An offender can face up to a $500 fine. Ken Shiotani, a senior staff attorney for the National Disability Rights Network, said that is not enough to stop widespread abuse.

Shiotani said the most common complaint is about authorities not enforcing parking laws. He said most law enforcement agencies enforce handicapped parking laws only when there’s a complaint.

“I don’t think they go out of their way to enforce handicapped parking rules until they get pressure from citizens complaining of not being able to find spaces because of people abusing the system,” Shiotani said.

With the holiday season approaching, McDaniel said he expects deputies to receive more complaints, but that does not mean parking abuse is a growing problem in Richmond County.

“When it comes to a person who is handicapped, they have the right to park closer and we have the responsibility to investigate each and every violation,” he said. “It’s our job and we take it seriously because it involves a person’s health and welfare.”

McDaniel said it’s not uncommon for a road deputy to get a call from someone upset about an
able-bodied person parking in a handicap area, but the violator is often gone by the time an officer arrives.

TO GET AN IDEA of the extent of this problem, a Chronicle reporter and photographer visited parking lots across metro Augusta recently in search of violators.

They were not hard to find.

At a Tobacco Road barber shop, a young woman sprang out of a Mercedes-Benz after parking illegally in a handicapped spot. When she returned 30 minutes later, she confessed that she shouldn’t have parked there.

At Wal-Mart on Bobby Jones Express­way, an older man in a late-model pickup parked illegally in a handicapped space while a relative ran inside to buy a few items. When the reporter and photographer spotted him, he moved his vehicle.

Outside the Sears Auto Center at Augusta Mall, a NASCAR fan parked his unpermitted GMC Sierra in a handicapped spot, fewer than 10 yards from an empty space.

“It’s a law for a reason,” said former Army Pfc. Jeremiah Butler, 30, who – because of the illegally parked Sierra – had to squeeze his wheelchair-lift-enabled van into a spot two spaces down. He barely had enough room to get out.

“I definitely think more awareness is needed,” said Butler, who bruised his spinal cord during an altercation with another soldier and now must use a wheelchair. “The laws are only enforced as long as someone is there to enforce them, which is not regularly.”

DO YOU KNOW THE LAW?

It is unlawful for any person in Georgia or South Carolina to stop, stand or park any vehicle in a parking place for persons with disabilities unless there is displayed on the driver’s side of the dashboard or hung from the rearview mirror of the parked vehicle a valid unexpired parking permit for persons with disabilities or unless there is attached to the vehicle a specially designated license plate for disabled veterans or other disabled persons.

The penalty is a $100 to $500 fine in Georgia; $100 to $750 in South Carolina.

HANDICAP TICKETS FILED

 201120122013
Richmond County9910
Columbia County579392779
Aiken County14914
Savannah, Ga.1,3101,183745

Sources: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia County Magistrate Court, Aiken Department of Public Safety, Savannah police

IN AIKEN

Sgt. Matthew Braxton, the community service supervisor at the Aiken Department of Public Safety, said handicapped parking enforcement is a responsibility of all staff and, usually, citations are written based on complaints and officer observations.

Local records show the department has written 37 tickets in the past three years – nine more than Richmond County – while the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles has 2,848 handicapped permits in circulation in Aiken County.

He said generally his staff does not spot a violator by sight but by matching a handicapped license plate or placard to the vehicle’s registration.

“Abuse of handicapped parking laws is not something that occurs every day, but it happens sometimes,” Braxton said. “This is a law I have enforced for 20 to 30 years. It’s pretty cut and dry.”

– Wesley Brown,
staff writer

LOCAL PERMITS ISSUED

PERMANENT PERMITS

 201120122013Total
Richmond3,4853,5002,1709,155
Columbia1,6231,7991,0544,476

TEMPORARY PERMITS

 201120122013Total
Richmond4864853271,298
Columbia3603872571,004

Source: Georgia Department of Revenue

Note: Aiken County has 2,848 plates and placards in circulation. South Carolina records do not break down permits by year or status.

Comments (29) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
fishman960
1492
Points
fishman960 11/02/13 - 10:56 pm
5
2
Retribution

My dear father God rest his soul, would see a chronic violator and after repeated requests to cease and desist, would slash the tires of the offender.
Had to go to court once over it and told the judge he would do it again if it continued..

Little Lamb
47204
Points
Little Lamb 11/02/13 - 11:25 pm
2
9
Statistics

For goodness sakes, aren't there more important statistics for the government to collect than these?

Little Lamb
47204
Points
Little Lamb 11/02/13 - 11:28 pm
3
7
Extra Statistics

Maybe the disparity exists because Columbia County motorists are more inconsiderate of the disabled than are Richmond County motorists.

Darby
27199
Points
Darby 11/03/13 - 12:25 am
7
1
I once saw two teenage girls

pull into a space at the Dollar Tree, reach under the seat and pull out a card to hang on the rear view mirror..

They then both bolted from the car and raced into the store. The fact that they laughed all the way really irritated the heck out of me.

And no, it's not anecdotal, that kind of behavior is very, very common in Richmond and Columbia counties.

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 11/03/13 - 01:46 am
3
1
Handicap
Unpublished

We payed huge tax dollars to have handicapped access sidewalks. Then dummies plant their mail box in the middle of them so no one can use them. Try to use a wheel chair on a sidewalk with the mail boxes in them.

american rose
250
Points
american rose 11/03/13 - 01:15 am
5
0
I hate it when I see this in Richmond County...

This is more money for the county. Those violators should be held accountable and pay the price. It is really bad to have to ask the sheriff's department to enforce the law that will bring in revenue that could ultimately be use to hire more deputies or buy better equipment. When they are just riding around, they could be looking for violators. This is a serious problem in Richmond County.

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 11/03/13 - 03:30 am
8
0
Handicap parking
Unpublished

Some people with handicap parking rights still should not park in handicap
parking places unless the person that the handicap license is present. A lot
of the time, people with the handicap tag abuse the law because they are too sorry to walk from a parking place ten feet further away fromthe store entrance.

fatherinevans
240
Points
fatherinevans 11/03/13 - 07:00 am
2
3
Handicap Parking

I am still amazed that people can go in a store and shop all day then complain about not having a parking space. If you have the energy to get around the mall or store to shop then park your car and walk to the store like everyone else. I can see it during the holidays where all the spaces are taken and you need the extra room but for the remainder of the year it doesn't make sense.

nocnoc
45396
Points
nocnoc 11/03/13 - 09:06 am
5
1
Sore spot with me.

I am permanently disabled I have enough metal in me to build a nice small firearm. An yes I have permanent disabled tag plates.

From time to time we do use the handicap spaces if I am having really bad day or the back injury or rebuilt foot is causing walking problems. I have reduced my usage,because there are limited spaces and I know there people that really need the space more than I do.

But what ticks me off is:
1. those that have obviously healed long ago from their sprained ankle or toe that got a Doc to give them a Temporary Decal authorization form. A Doc knowing they would heal in 6-8 weeks, and that likely the person would still using it 35 months later.

We need to figure out a way to require the temp decal to be turned once the doc clears the person. Reduce the Temp Decals to 90 days and different design and color.

2. Non handicap family member using the temp decal to grab a spot running in the store to shop, dancing to the back of the store and back to the car. We need to figure out a way to check, and fine the abusers and start doing it. Maybe requiring a picture of the authorized user on the decal?

3. Those that take an address label and run it thru a printer and change the expiration date and laminate the card to make it look official.
These are the ones that need to be criminally charged with altering stated tags or documents

4. The Motorcycle users that use the Ramp areas to park. An the Police or Security that ride by them without ticketing or saying something to them.

Require traceable warnings notices, 2 warning a ticket and allow towing on the 3rd abuse in a given time period.

5. The commercial vehicles like UPS, Soda, bread and etc. vendors blocking the handicap spaces to make a delivery. Like a Lawn Care Guy I have seen frequently at Walmart using the long Handicap spaces to park his truck and lawn care trailer. This is a guy that pushes a mower for a living but he has a temp Decal????? Write tickets no warnings

The list goes on and on ... YES enforcement is needed.
But, 1st we need to change the law on who gets a handicap decal.

Yes we will always hear the counter argument.
My handicap is not visible I have ___ (heart, lungs etc... problems) Well then you should be in a wheelchair, or electric cart to avoid stressing your heart, lungs, etc. If you can get your butt out of the car and walk the store and back do your car. You don't need or get a handicap tag or temp decal. At most parking another 50 feet from the entrance is not much compared to the store walk they undertake. That sounds logical and simple.

Let us use some forward thinking here and be fair.
We are coming off 12 years of 2 wars. We are going to have a lot of wounded vets that are seriously handicap. Fort Gordon and Augusta will have more than its share of these Honorable Disabled VET's that are seriously handicapped that will need these spots.

So I propose
Since Times have changed and Stores now provided Electric carts that were not around when the Handicap laws were setup. If a person is not confined to a Wheel Chair, save the spots for those that really need them.

Let get back to, If you need a WHEELCHAIR to get around, you get a Handicap Decal or Tag. If you have a sprain ankle you get to use the electric cart. If you weight over 350lbs, you must bring your own cart, because store carts are not rated for more than that weight.

ENFORCEMENT
Allow and Require police to spot check hanging temp decals are being properly used and being used by the person assigned to it.

Calls to 911 about abuse usually get the response "Well how do you know they aren't handicap? An once you tell them you watch the teen do a 4 min mile to the entrance, they frequently tell you there is nothing they can do about?

SUGGESTION TO AREA PAPERS
With all the abuse going on, when was the last time we heard of a ticket being issued? This would make a great SHAME Section for the Jail Report or the AC.

avidreader
3383
Points
avidreader 11/03/13 - 09:08 am
6
1
Towing!

Let the towing guys place a boot on the tire (or tow the car) and collect the revenue for removal. Problem solved. No permit? -- it's steel boot time.

mad consumer
178
Points
mad consumer 11/03/13 - 09:44 am
4
3
Handicap parking is for handicaped drivers

Handicap parking spaces are for handicapped drivers only, not passengers! If you are handicapped and aren't driving get dropped off and let the driver park in a regular space. The only exception to this should be for van access spaces only. If you can park in a space and prevent a disabled person from using it and have no qualms about it God Bless You you'll need it. Remember ignorance is not a handicap!!!

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 10:35 am
4
2
What's the law On that, Mad Consumer?

What's the law On that, Mad Consumer? I do it both ways. The elderly (87) relative that I transport has about 12 inches of metal in her back. She walks, but only short distances. I drop her off at the front door most of the time & park in a Regular place, but it depends on the situation. If she is about to have to take a long hike, I have to be out and able to support & help her. Sometimes I'm trying to grab a motorized scooter or courtesy wheelchair, if available, very quickly - because she can't stand by herself for very long at all. She worked as a public servant (School Teacher) for decades, has Never taken a government handout and deserves respect and accommodation on the few times that she is able to go out.
I hate those abusers and have been very vocal about it in the past. In my family, we are doing the best that we can do and still allow this wonderful lady to get out & about.

itsanotherday1
45609
Points
itsanotherday1 11/03/13 - 10:37 am
2
0
Solution

$500 fine, doubling for second offense, period. Step up enforcement, and run a few PSA's to warn the public that abusing handicap parking will be very expensive.

mad consumer
178
Points
mad consumer 11/03/13 - 10:55 am
1
2
The law "parking for handicaped drivers and van access" period.

Every law has a perceived exception as in your case. When my mother in law was still with us we had a small folding chair that she could sit on and wait comfortably till I could get back to her. Worked out very well even in the store if she got tired.

creolechick
72
Points
creolechick 11/03/13 - 11:39 am
2
1
I see these violations all

I see these violations all the time at mall, Kroger across from mall and the walmart on bobby jones just to name a few. I wish the violators were ticketed. Not only would that help free up the spaces for those who truly need them but it would be much needed revenue for the county.

daphne3520
950
Points
daphne3520 11/03/13 - 12:21 pm
0
0
North Augusta cops have a well deserved reputation
Unpublished

for being OVERZEALOUS, in some arenas. Handicapped Parking violators get a free pass at Wal-Mart, Georgia Ave., Mc'Donalds and ANY strip mall! DO something, PLEASE!!!!!!! ALSO, in Augusta and Aiken.

daphne3520
950
Points
daphne3520 11/03/13 - 12:25 pm
0
0
BTW...It is "paid," NOT "payed," and the Poster
Unpublished

erroneously said. LACK of education, same as most cops.

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 01:00 pm
4
0
My relative shouldn't drive any more, by herself.

My relative shouldn't drive any more by herself. She needs close access to buildings, and some one to support her. I am not able to carry a chair around for her, because I'm supporting her. She still has a valid driver's license, I guess that we'll have to put her behind the steering wheel from now on, if that's the law. I'll ride shotgun. So, look out, LOL. Really, her driving around is not the best option. Do all those Van drivers with wheelchairs have hand controls, or is the disabled person transported/driven by someone else?
I see people that are confined to wheel chairs with noticeable sever physical handicaps and sometime presumable developmentally disabled being transported, and their drivers rightfully park in the Handicapped spots...Are you saying that they should be driving - in order to go to a Doctors appointment (or not park in the Handicapped Spot?? Hey, I work with someone, with a Handicapped Tag on their SUV, for their husband. But, she abuses the system EVERY Day. We all hate it. I hate the abusers, but I don't want residents with severe disabilities denied heath care, or other outings because they can't drive, and their caretakers should be using these designated spaces.

RUserious1
9
Points
RUserious1 11/03/13 - 01:13 pm
3
1
"Handicap parking spaces are

"Handicap parking spaces are for handicapped drivers only, not passengers! If you are handicapped and aren't driving get dropped off and let the driver park in a regular space"
@ Mad Consumer......There is no way I am going to "drop" my disabled grandmother off on the curb while I go and park. That becomes a major safety issue. I agree that there are too many people that abuse this privilege, but just because someone doesn't drive doesn't mean they should not be allowed to use these spaces.

itsanotherday1
45609
Points
itsanotherday1 11/03/13 - 01:38 pm
2
1
I think the issue with non

I think the issue with non handicapped passengers or drivers is when the handicapped person stays with the car, and just uses the space as a convenience for the able bodied person to save a few steps.

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 02:09 pm
6
0
I looked up the State of Georgia regulations

I looked up the State of Georgia regulations and did not find the word 'Driver'. It referred to the issue as for 'Disabled Person's License Plate or Placard'. So, the State of Georgia issues the tags & cards for the disabled person - not specifically for the driver.

mad consumer
178
Points
mad consumer 11/03/13 - 02:58 pm
1
1
So I assume the car is

So I assume the car is registered in her name and you just drive it since the tag is for her disability or were you able to get the tag office to issue it for your car for your passenger? I'm not being sardonic I really want to know.

Sweet son
10778
Points
Sweet son 11/03/13 - 03:03 pm
3
1
Richmond County has a different mindset clientel who abuse

the spaces and a Sheriff's Department that has 'more' important things to do!

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 04:16 pm
2
0
My relative has a placard - that hangs over the rearview mirrow.

She does not have a handicapped tag, and we drive her around in our own cars. I have never abused the law and parked in a parking place reserved for handicapped people for my own convenience, and I never will. I - like you - find the abusers repulsive! You & I are in total agreement on that point. She has only had her placard for a couple of years (2 1/2) and she really doesn't get out much. No, I never have (ever) and I promise You I will never abuse
those parking spaces. I have worked with disabled people for decades and respect them.

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 04:21 pm
3
0
P.S. Mad Consumer, the disabled person's name is on the placard

P.S. Mad Consumer, the disabled person's name is on the placard. So, I assume that a law enforcement officer can verify that the person is present & is the one that you are parking in that space for (if they can not figure it out by looking at your passenger).
The placard works for my family, because different people transport her. No one in this family has a handicap tag on their car, including her (and her car battery has been dead for almost 2 1/2 years).

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 04:44 pm
4
0
P.S.S Mad Consumer

As a teenager, I spent my summers volunteering with disabled people. One time the guy driving the van dropped me off with a van full of disabled people at the entrance on an outing, as he drove away - I realized I had 2 wheelchairs, one large guy with CP and heavy braces on his legs, plus the rest of the people were developmentally disabled, and I had to get everybody up a paved hill to get inside. There had been no available handicapped parking spaces. The van driver had to go park. And, I have pushed many wheelchairs across gravel paths volunteering at a camp for disabled people. It burns me up for people to try to take advantage of an empty parking space, because of their own greed and laziness.
Mad Consumer, no one but you would become angry if you saw me park in a handicapped parking space when I'm transported and assisting my disabled relative. Everyone in the parking lot would be able to tell that we are not abusing the system, when they saw her struggling to walk the shorter distance to the door.

dwb619
97763
Points
dwb619 11/03/13 - 05:18 pm
3
1
S.C. disabled placard

I saw two disabled placards on cars in North Augusta yesterday. Bought had an individuals color photograph on them. I don't know when this started, but I would think it would make enforcement much easier.

fatboyhog
2025
Points
fatboyhog 11/03/13 - 05:37 pm
3
1
News flash!

Maybe the Chronicle should sit and watch the abuse of those with the placard/license plate. More times than not, the biggest violators are those that posses a hang tag or DV/HC license plate. And heaven help the officer who actually questions someone who parks in a space to verify that the tag/license plate is for them. The law needs to be rewritten, given some teeth, and then aggressively enforced. It is ridiculous when a person has a permit, parks in a space, and sits in the car while the passenger, who is not handicapped, runs into a business. This should be illegal and officers should be allowed to do spot checks without being fussed at. You would think that those that have the permit would appreciate it, but more times than not, that's not the case. There should not be permanent license plates, as that invites a ton of abuse. Issue hang tags with a name and/or permit number thta can be checked via computer.
It's easy to gripe, but heaven help the officer if he/she questions someone about parking in a handicap space. If someone is parked in a handicap space without a permit, they should get a ticket and a hefty fine. I also think that people who get a permit should be REQUIRED to sign an acknowledgement form to indicate that they actually understand how the permits are supposed to be used and under what conditions.

Stunned 2
5150
Points
Stunned 2 11/03/13 - 05:59 pm
2
1
I hope Georgia starts putting pictures on the Placards!

I hope Georgia starts putting pictures on the Placards! They need to develop a good way for easily verifying the handicapped tags in parking spaces, also.

american rose
250
Points
american rose 11/03/13 - 08:11 pm
0
0
Hefty tickets....

More revenue for the county. Easy to spot. Don't argue with the car that has the tags. Grab the ones that don't. That would be a start. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs