Answer Man: What's the fine for illegally parking in a handicapped spot?

News-DemocratJanuary 11, 2014 

I was parking today and noticed the handicap parking sign. The sign warned that there was a $50-$250 fine for parking in that spot illegally. What determines the amount of fine a person will have to pay? That is quite a spread. -- W.N., of Collinsville

Here's a fact you may chuckle over: Not only is it illegal for any non-disabled driver to park in that space, but the sign you saw is also technically illegal.

That's the interpretation from Bill Bogdan, who, as disability liaison for the Illinois secretary of state, is my go-to guy for all matters concerning driving and disabilities.

In 2005, the Illinois Legislature decided to get people's attention by upping the penalties for lazy able-bodied drivers who pull into spots for the disabled. As of Jan. 1, 2006, the minimum fine is now $250, although municipalities can, by ordinance, increase that minimum to $350.

As a result, any sign that indicates a fine lower than $250 is long out of date. So, any interested party who sees such a sign should ask the property owner to replace it with one that displays the $250 or $350 figure.

"Technically that $50-$250 sign is illegal per se," Bogdan said. "They have to us the $250 fine sign as required."

While researching your question, I ran into a couple of other facts that might interest you. I'm sure you've been in a mall parking lot and seen a row of a half-dozen or more spaces for the disabled, all going unused. Why so many, you may have thought.

By Illinois law, those who offer off-street parking must provide a minimum number of spots for the disabled based on the total number of spaces available. So, for example, any lot with up to 25 spaces must leave one for the disabled. But if you have parking for, say, 301 to 400, you must have eight spots and those with 501 to 1,000 spaces must reserve 2 percent for the disabled.

There are also rules for location, size and markings. Property owners also must keep "the entire space" clear of obstructions at all times, including ice and snow.

And, starting this year, Illinois has instituted a two-tiered system that allows the "severely disabled" to park free in any public space. This group includes those who use wheelchairs, parents of disabled children and people who have trouble walking more than 20 feet. People deemed less severely disabled can still use spots designated for the disabled but they do have to feed parking meters.

If you'd like a copy of the state's accessible parking rules, send me an email or a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you have questions or complaints, contact the Disability Rights Bureau in Springfield at 217-524-2660

How can I stop a certain religious organization from sending letters to me? I have sent them two letters asking them to stop, but I'm still getting three or four a month, each requesting money so God can perform a miracle in my life. -- T.D., of Belleville

My advice: Every time you get a letter, take a deep breath and, like Frank Costanza on "Seinfeld," say "Serenity now" a few times. Then, simply toss it and go on with your life.

You see, after hearing about my second and final chance to lower my credit card interest rate for the 837th time on my answering machine, I've come to this fatalistic conclusion: No do-not-call or do-not-mail list will ever stop the unscrupulous from trying to separate you from your money.

Let me give you an example. I recently received not one, not two, but three identical snail-mail solicitations from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on the same day. When I sent them an email noting my concern about this waste, they took great pains to assure me that, since I donate to them through local Team in Training members, they would take me off their mailing list. That's what a legitimate business or charity does.

But I could spend most of my waking hours sending the Federal Trade Commission the numbers from all of the illegal calls I receive even though I was among the first to join the federal do-not-call list. So, I simply screen my calls through caller ID and move on. I know they probably won't be caught and even if they are they'll just change their name and number and start robocalling again.

So, you're welcome to follow the Better Business Bureau's advice of registering with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service at www.dmachoice.org. (I'll send you other tips as well.) But I'll bet you a year's supply of the latest sure-fire, lab-proven weight-loss supplement it won't do a bit of good.

Today's trivia

What professional sports team has retired the most numbers?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Listening to music on tape has pretty much joined the pile of technological dinosaurs, whether it be on reels, cassettes or 8-tracks. But in the first half of the 20th century, it was the Next Big Thing to get around the scratches, pops and warping of vinyl. So, the late Merv Griffin became a trendsetter when in 1946 he used his Panda Records label to produce "Songs by Merv Griffin," the first American album recorded on magnetic tape. It is now enshrined in the Ampex Museum at Stanford University, according to his obituary on Billboard.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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