CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s something that happens more often than many Middle Tennesseans may realize – drivers parking illegally in handicapped spots.
After Houston County teenager Jefferey Cox was paralyzed from the waist down due to a football injury, he has relied on a wheelchair to get around. His family also has a custom-made minivan that makes it easier for him to travel. He said almost every trip in the van ends with parking problems.
“It’s frustrating,” said Cox. “Especially when you see it every day and all the time.”
Cox said he constantly witnesses people parked illegally in the handicapped spots. He also sees cars blocking ramps to the sidewalk, and parking on the cross-hatch lines that are next to the handicapped spots. The lines also designate a no parking zone, so that someone in a wheelchair has room to get out of a vehicle and onto the sidewalk.
“I can’t park in the handicap spot sometimes,” said Cox. “I have to go to another spot that isn’t even designated for me to get out in.”
Tennessee state code says a driver must have a disability placard on their rear view mirror, or disability license plate to park in a disabled spot. Parking illegally in the spot is a misdemeanor, and violators could face a fine of $200.
“In general enforcement of accessible parking has been challenging. Places of public accommodations, such as grocery stores and restaurants, have the ability to contact local authorities to assist with enforcement," The Tennessee Disability Coalition said in a statement. "However, we have found that often they choose not do so.”
Cox thinks most drivers who park illegally aren't thinking about how their decision impacts people with disabilities.
“Some of them do it just to make their lives easier,” said Cox. “Being able to get out of the vehicle easier, makes my life easier.”
Cox shared his frustrations in hopes of increasing awareness about the situation, so drivers will think twice before parking illegally in the future.