25 04 2008

New Texas law simplifies issue for disabled vets’ parking

Chris Roberts / El Paso Times



Changing laws have created confusion about where disabled veterans can park. As it turns out, disabled veteran Jesus Padilla was right.

An El Paso police officer tried to give Padilla — declared by Veterans Affairs to be 100 percent disabled — a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot when he had a “disabled veteran” license plate and no mirror placard.

All he needed was the license plate.

“He was kind enough not to give me a ticket,” Padilla said of the officer, who told Padilla he had not heard of a change in law that Padilla referred to.

Even some state officials were initially confused about the regulations, which appeared to have conflicting elements until a Texas Senate bill passed into law last year simplified matters.

That’s the law Padilla referred to, and it allows a car with a disabled veterans plate, whether it has the small wheelchair icon or not, to park in any handicapped spot, said Linda Kirksey, chief of registration for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Titles and Registration Division.

A placard is not required, she added.

Those rules don’t necessarily apply to federal property, she said.

Padilla, although laughing about the confusion, added, “They (state and local officials) have to get their act together. A lot of veterans are suffering because of this thing.”

The plate must be used properly, said El Paso Police Department spokesman Javier Sambrano.

The disabled person must be in the vehicle, he said, adding that the plate can’t be used by family members or friends to run errands.

Sambrano said police officers are enforcing the disabled parking laws with discretion “unless there is something that would lead them to suspect there is something wrong.”

No one who has a disabled veteran license plate and is using it properly will be ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot, he said.

When it comes to the placards, there are red and blue ones.

The initial intention was to provide closer-in parking, requiring a blue placard, for people with serious mobility problems, Kirksey said. To simplify, she said, either placard may be used for any handicapped spot in Texas unless there is a sign that says “Blue placard parking only.”

Chris Roberts may be reached at chrisr@elpasotimes.com; 546-6136.




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