HOUSTON — Drivers who use handicapped parking spaces who aren’t disabled better think twice the next time they decide to park their cars in one of the spots.
The city of Houston has an army of volunteers looking for violators.
The volunteers are ready to make you pay big bucks if you get caught.
On a rainy day, the most coveted spots in any parking lot are the ones closest to the front door. You would think that most drivers know the marked handicapped spaces are reserved for people who need them.
“Parking in it for just a minute is hurting someone else,” Maria Irshad said.
Irshad, who’s a director with Park Houston, said with only 35 compliance officers it’s hard to catch all the violators.
“When someone parks at a space without that placard, they think it’s just a minute. You know, ‘I’m just going in. I’m going to go to the ATM for just a minute. I’m just going to be in and out real fast,’ but what they don’t realize is that there’s limited spaces and someone who really needs that space comes along and they don’t have access to it,” Irshad said.
The city has a secret weapon.
More than 400 people make up the Disabled Parking Volunteer Program. They’ve been trained and are authorized to issue parking citations to cars that are parked in handicapped spaces without a visible handicap placard.
“They will take their ticket book out with them when maybe they’re at the grocery store or when they’re out shopping, just running errands and if they find someone in violation they’ll give them a citation,” Irshad said.
The volunteers are also making sure the hatched-off accessible aisle is clear.
Last year, they issued more than 9,800 parking citations, each one costing drivers $500 bucks.
Irshad said, that to the volunteers, catching able drivers abusing disabled spots is near and dear to their hearts.
“They do it on their own time. A lot of them have a personal stake in accessible parking. It may be someone in their family. It may be themselves that need the parking space,” Irshad said.
The city is now recruiting more volunteers to join the program. They’re hosting training sessions twice a month.