Driving for the Disabled: Understanding the Laws Involved

January 27, 2012

In most states, the motor vehicles laws governing driving for the disabled and non-disabled drivers are the same, when the drivers are behind the wheel.

For example, though one may be a paraplegic, each state assumes, (as does the driving test) that each person is required to take whether the vehicle has hand controls or standard controls. The driver understands the standard speed laws or laws for driving through built-up areas, and the laws for approaching a school bus with flashing lights.

Law Makes Few Allowances

The law does make certain allowances for adapted cars for the disabled that use hand-control devices. In other words, one’s car may be equipped with them, but they must work in a manner that is consistent with safety. If they do not, then like any driver with an impaired or faulty vehicle, the driver is subject to the public safety laws of the state. One cannot drive without headlights on at night, nor can one drive without brakes or brake lights during the day.

Where the law does make a difference, is in the allowance it makes for disabled vehicles for transportation in parking spaces, for example. One will find that prime parking spaces are available for vehicles displaying either “handicapped placards” or “handicapped plates” at the front door or in the front row of any parking lot.

Some also fail to realize that when vehicles are equipped with specialized “veteran’s” license plates, the plates are the equivalent of “handicapped plates” and are entitled to the same rights and privileges.

Improper Placard Use

There is one time that the “handicapped” privilege is revoked from a license or placard, and that is when a fully capable driver, one who may be using the vehicle of a relative or who may also be the sole source of disabled vehicle transportation for a relative, uses that plate or placard for their personal use. In this case, not only is this considered a dishonorable use or such a placard or license plate, it immediately puts that placard or plate into jeopardy, if the capable person is discovered using it.

If, on the other hand, the person is acting in their capacity as caretaker or transportation provider, then they are empowered to use the license plate or placard to its fullest extent. Even if it appears to others that the person is using it for personal gain.

Handicapped Spaces

Another little understood law involves the marking of handicapped spaces. In many states, you will see the handicapped placard laid down brightly, making it hard to ignore. In this instance, one may face up to a $300 fine if one is found using it without the proper permit or placard. If one sees cross-hatching that is next to a handicapped-only space, it indicates that the cross-hatched space is for the discharge  and use for handicapped drivers with specially equipped vans that have wheelchair or scooter lifts. These spaces are not, as many perceive, “gifts” from the state, allowing the fully abled the use of these spaces for their own parking purposes.