LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Able-bodied Californians are using disabled placards — to park for free — and costing the city millions of dollars in revenue.
CBS2’s Investigative Reporter David Goldstein reveals that as many as one-fourth of drivers in the state are using disabled placards fraudulently.
Hidden cameras caught many active people — working out at an expensive health club in West Los Angeles — moments after they parked. With the disabled placards, they are allowed to park for free and never have to feed meters like everyone else using the facility.
There are nearly two-and-a-half million disabled placards in California – that’s one in every 10 drivers in the state.
To qualify for placards, drivers must have a medical professional certify they have substantial impaired mobility, lung or cardiovascular disease or severe vision problems, according to the DMV.
A hidden camera caught one woman place her placard in the rear view mirror of her Range Rover before taking a spin class – several days in a row.
According to DMV records, the woman has been disabled for over a decade.
“You’ve had the placard since 1999. Do you have a disability or are you just using it to park for free?” Goldstein asked.
“I obviously have a disability,” the woman said.
When asked to explain her disability, the woman responded, “There’s laws regarding privacy matters.”
An internationally-renowned fitness expert, Karen Voight, was also spotted using a disabled placard. She teaches a stretching class at the health club.
“You have a disability?” Goldstein asked.
“Well, my knee is unable to do a lot of things, and I was told by the doctor to be off of it as often as I can,” Voight responded.
“Even though you’re teaching a class here twice a week?” Goldstein said.
“But I don’t. What I teach is a rehab class,” she said.
The health club simply labels the class as “stretching.”
Young kids were also seen weight-lifting and playing basketball — their car uses a placard linked to a 77-year-old man.
Commander Vito Scataglia of the DMV said once the placards applications are signed by medical professionals, there is not much the DMV can do about stopping fraud. And once you get one of the placards, it is renewed for life.
“We legally cannot ask why she has a placard,” he said. “We cannot legally ask what her disability is.”
The city of Los Angeles issued 227 citations in 10 months of last year for misuse of disabled placards.
“It can be frustrating,” said Sgt. Kimmy Porter of the LA Department of Transportation. “It’s just easy access to parking. You know, you’re parked at a parking meter, you don’t have to pay. You can stay there for any length of time.”
And it’s more than city funds this misuse is affecting.
Nancy Becker Kennedy of Californians for Disability Rights said taking up spots is dangerous for her and other drivers who have disabilities.
“Shame on them. I mean if I’m parking two blocks away, and I get to the end of the curb and there’s no curb cut, and I have to go down a driveway into the street you know – how much money would you give for what my life is worth?”