more, state police statistics indicate that about one in every
four persons officially observed and cited for violating a fire
lane beats the rap. And about half of those charged with wrongly
using a handicapped spot get off.
categories, it would seem that conviction rates would be
even lower if those who simply mail in the ticket along with
payment of the minimum fine instead challenged the citation in
of parking restrictions resulted from serious concerns about
public safety and have widespread public support. Nevertheless,
it is possible to visit any shopping
center at virtually any time and find obvious violations -- even though there are
vacant spaces available a few feet removed.
Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner believes it is high time
that steps are taken to either strengthen the laws or improve
enforcement or both. As a first step, he has arranged for the
issue to receive an airing on Jan. 10 at the monthly public
meeting of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine
Hundred. The session will begin at 7 p.m. in Brandywine High
School on Foulk Road.
Cpl. Walter Newton told Delaforum that mostly state police
cadets issued 2,452 tickets for fire lane violations statewide
in 2000. Of those, charges were dismissed in 32 cases and 26
were found not guilty. There are still 541 cases listed as
pending, which he said include citations that were ignored.
During the first 11 months of 2001, 2,527 tickets were issued,
32 cases dismissed, 16 found not guilty and 655 are pending.
proportion of judicial dismissals is dramatically larger in
cases involving charges of illegally parking in handicapped
spaces. Of 623 tickets issued in 2000, 151 were voided. Through
November, 2001, 135 of the 526 citations were dismissed.
Fourteen of the alleged offenders were found not guilty in 2000
and eight such verdicts rendered in the 2001 period. Listed as
pending are 128 of the 2000 cases and 123 of those in 2001.
larger number of people who evidently do contest handicapped
parking charges most likely results from a growing awareness
that state law is very specific about how each designated space
must be identified. While New Castle County requires that a
proportionate number of parking spaces associated with a
commercial building be reserved for the handicapped, there
evidently is no followup to assure they are correctly marked. As
a result, many are not.
State law specifies that each handicapped parking space
should be "conspicuously marked" by a sign 12 inches
wide and 18 inches tall posted five to seven feet above the
ground. It must specify that the space is "reserved"
and include the international handicapped symbol.
other hand, Delaware Code is vague on defining what a fire lane should look
like. It said only that it should be "designated and
properly identified" and makes general reference to a yellow curb or yellow
line at the edge of the roadway.
sure, it generally is agreed that, especially with handicapped parking,
that abuse occurs involving both authorized and unauthorized persons.
said the most
difficult aspect of addressing the situation is pinpointing why
the applicable laws are so frequently, and freely, violated.
two years ago, I began looking into this issue. I found that the
state police lacked sufficient personnel to address this issue.
I, and other elected officials and civic leaders supported the
initiative to add a cadet force whose mission was to focus on
these scofflaws," he said. The state police has
jurisdiction in most shopping centers.
though a cadet force was specifically authorized by state law to
handle the task for ticketing such violators, the arrangement
evidently has not been effective, the councilman said. Violators
who challenged the summonses in magistrate court were frequently
able to have the charges dismissed.
force consists of youths between the ages of 18 and 20 recruited
and trained to issue tickets in shopping centers and other
commercial areas. They are not being trained as police officers
but are comparable to so-called municipal 'meter maids'.
said he received conflicting reports when he inquired about the
reasons for the dismissals. They included:
The state fire marshal's office needed to update its
Shopping centers, apartment
complexes and other applicable areas failed to properly
designate and place signage in the handicapped spots and fire
lanes and the fire marshal's office is not properly
inspecting those areas.
State police are not effectively prosecuting these cases.
Magistrates are not applying the law consistently.
State law needs to be updated.
County law needs to be updated.
County code violations are not being addressed.
years of looking into the situation, "I have more questions
than answers," Weiner said.
addition to establishing fines, the section of the law dealing
with fire-lane violations authorizes law enforcers and fire
officials to have offending vehicles towed at the owner's
a general perception that the state's rather liberal policy of
issuing special licenses plates and, more particularly,
identification tags to be dangled from vehicle mirrors has led
to widespread abuse of handicapped accommodations.
permanent license plates are supposedly valid for such
consideration only when the person for whom they are issued is
using the vehicle. The tags are primarily for use when the
handicapped person is being transported by someone else although
there is a provision in the law that they can be obtained in
lieu of a permanent plate.
event, necessity rather than convenience is supposed to be the
determining factor in a person's availing themselves of
the city of Wilmington, where enforcement of overtime parking is
waived for handicapped-identified vehicles, it has become common
practice for cars sporting the blue identification tags to be
parked all day every day in metered spaces. They apparently can
be several blocks removed from places of employment and farther
away than paid-parking facilities with handicapped