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DMV cracking down on drivers who illegally use disabled placards

Credit: MGN Online

Misty Diaz parks her black Mazda sedan in a disabled parking spot in downtown Bakersfield. She hops out of her car with two hot pink crutches strapped around her wrists.

This front row parking spot is not a luxury for her, but a necessity. Diaz was born with spina bifida, which affects her mobility. She had her first surgery when she was only 5 years old and has had 27 more since then.

“My spine has been completely opened like three times,” Diaz says. “I’ve had bones moved from my left leg to my right leg, my right leg to my left leg.”

When it comes to driving, she depends on the blue marked parking spots to help her get around. But sometimes, the disabled parking spots that are supposed to be reserved for people with disabilities are occupied by people who don’t need them.

“The only reason why there isn’t enough parking is because so many people abuse it,” she says.

Officials with the Department of Motor Vehicles have caught on to this illegal practice and is cracking down on people who take the placards from friends or family members, or who buy them online from websites like Craigslist or Ebay.

Last year, the DMV issued 750 citations statewide to people who fraudulently used disabled placards. Most recently, the DMV has launched an internal audit into the placard application process. They are also conducting sting operations to catch people in the act

"It's a very criminal issue. It’s a misdemeanor citation,” said Tom Edwards, who is an employee for the DMV. “It’s not something that just goes away. You have to go before the judge, actually and explain why you're using somebody's placard."

As for Diaz, she says she wants to encourage drivers to think and look twice before they park in a disabled parking spot.

"These are things we as people with disabilities are able to use for certain reasons," she says.

Using a disabled placard illegally is a misdemeanor, punishable with fines from $400 to $1,200.

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