Handicapped drivers are allowed to park for free, but only for up to four hours in the same neighborhood. ABC 7 documented an alarming percentage of cars parking downtown that were using the placards to park all day in some of the busiest parts of the city.
"We found that over 40 percent of the cars that are parked using handicapped placards are parking over the available time limit," says Karyn LeBlanc, of Downtown DC BID.
The problem is bad all across the city. But it's particularly bad downtown around federal office buildings. More than half of the cars ABC7 saw displayed handicapped placards. But ABC7 documented that most stay all day long.
One driver caught staying all day long conceded that he knew of the restrictions but said he never took advantage of the handicap placards. But ABC7 documented his truck parked in the same spot for more than 8 hours day after day.
But not everybody gets away with it. According to city records, parking enforcement wrote 409 tickets between October 2010 and October 2011 and 143 tickets between October 2011 and last month. That's about one ticket a day and the fine is only $25 bucks compared to $20 a day to park legally in a garage.
And that's why DDOT wants to change the law. The plan to remove that incentive is to convert about 10 percent of all the parking meters to these red topped meters reserved for handicapped drivers.
"We've been trying to focus on removing the incentive for fraud,” says John Lisle of the D.C. Department of Transportation.
The new meters were supposed to take effect last month, but the D.C. council put the plan on hold. Until the council can resolve the matter, officials say people will continue to abuse the system.