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Take back the parking stalls

Deseret Morning News Archives

Some things have a way of getting under a person's skin. The sound of a cell phone going off during a symphony concert comes to mind, as does the sight of someone smoking around children. And so do able-bodied motorists sliding into handicapped-parking stalls.

The difference is the last example is not only irritating, it is against the law. And courteous drivers — who sometimes spend half an hour looking for an empty space — apparently are saying "enough." An Ohio woman, Maureen Birdsall, is leading a charge to keep the handicapped stalls free for those with disabilities. She began a Web site to test the waters and quickly received postings from people in 26 states with similar complaints.

Now Birdsall collects the license plate numbers of scofflaws from all over the nation and sends them to the appropriate motor vehicle departments. The "take back the stalls" movement also is gaining momentum elsewhere. A city in Ohio increased the fine for parking illegally in handicapped zones from $40 to $250. In a Texas town, citizens are recruited to patrol parking lots for offenders.

A Massachusetts city spent $6,000 in grant money to upgrade its enforcement of the ordinance and got back $32,000 in fines.

One reason for the anger is that handicapped placards are becoming more plentiful, along with those who beg, borrow, steal or counterfeit them.

Stories abound about disabled people being thrown into dangerous situations because someone had stolen a stall.

We cheer the movement. The issue does strike a nerve, and Utah does have its share of cheaters.

Still, we urge motorists not to overreact and to keep in mind the seriousness of the violation. It's a parking violation, not a felony. Abusing parking privileges should be scorned and weeded out but should not be equated with dozens of other illegal behaviors that are more destructive and dangerous.

Motorists should be vigilant in keeping others inside the law but should save their real anger for big-ticket crimes like drunken driving and road rage as they work to clean up a problem that gets under everyone's skin.