Selfish drivers pay $7.2m for parking in disabled spots
ALMOST 14,000 drivers were fined for illegally parking in disabled spots across New South Wales over the 11 months to November.
National Roads and Motorists' Association president Kyle Loades said the action was the most common complaint aired at the organisation's Fit to Drive forums for older drivers earlier this year.
Offenders were slapped with a $531 fine, as well as a penalty of one demerit point which was introduced in December last year.
"Depriving a disabled person of their parking space is contemptible," Mr Loades said.
"It was hoped that hitting both the licences and the wallets of offenders might at least give them pause. Clearly the message has not got through."
Ability Inc manager Doug Hollingworth had a message for able-bodied drivers who were too lazy to take a few extra steps from their cars.
"Hopefully we might be more respectful up here... but I've even witnessed it myself," he said.
"I'd say just walk a bit extra.
"Those people have mobility issues. They can't just walk a longer distance."
Clarence Valley Councillor Jason Kingsley, who has used a wheelchair since a breaking his spine in a surfing accident as a teenager, said he had "no problem" with authorities cracking down on the selfish practice.
"Quite often you pull into a shopping centre where there are only one or two (disabled) spots and find someone parking there without a permit," he said.
"You see them get back into their car without seeming to have any sort of disability.
"I don't see it too much here in Grafton or the Valley but I do in other places, particularly in Coffs Harbour.
"There's one place there with close to a dozen disabled parking spots in one lot.
"You would always rock up and see able-bodied people getting in and out of their vehicles without a permit.
"It's a bit of a pain in the backside."
The disability advocate said he did not usually use disabled parking spaces because his electric wheelchair made getting around easier than it may be for others.
"I'm in a chair where I can push my joystick and off I go," he said.
"So I'd rather save the spots for people who really need it, like older people with mobility aids who can't walk long distances.
"But that's just me personally."
The State Debt Recovery Office said 13,830 offenders had been fined a total of $7.2 million between December last year and November.
It was a marginal improvement on the corresponding period a year earlier, when 14,547 motorists were fined $7.4 million.
"Anyone so callous as to misuse parking for the disabled is unlikely to be moved by an appeal to their better nature," Mr Loades said.
"They need to be left in no doubt that there are consequences and these impact heavily on them
"Only when this source of infringement revenue dries up will we know they are listening."
The NRMA called for more designated disabled parking, especially close to medical centres, shops and public transport.
"Our population is aging so the necessity of these spots is growing," Mr Loades said.