Hill to Introduce Legislation Cracking Down on Fraudulent Use of Parking Placards and License Plates Intended for Disabled Drivers

May 10, 2017

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – Wednesday May 10, 2017

Senator Hill to Introduce Legislation Cracking Down on Fraudulent Use of Parking Placards and License Plates Intended for Disabled Drivers

Bill Will Implement State Audit Recommendations to Improve Oversight of Disabled Driver Placards and Plates That Enable Users to Park in More Accessible Spaces and Park Free at Meters Without Time Limits

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill announced today that he will introduce legislation to help the DMV curb abuses of the state’s program for disabled placards and license plates, which allows motorists to use parking spots reserved for disabled drivers and permits them to park in time-limited slots indefinitely. Holders of disabled placards and license plates can also park in metered spots without paying.

“Taking unfair advantage of our state’s disabled placard program is an act of fraud,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “We must ensure that the DMV is equipped with the tools to effectively oversee the program so that it properly serves disabled drivers and works to eliminate abuse of the system. My legislation will help the DMV tighten its oversight by setting new accountability requirements for the disabled placard and license plate program.”

While there has long been speculation about abuse of the disabled placard program, an April 2017 report published by the California State Auditor was the first to quantify the problem. The audit found that:

  • The DMV does not appropriately cancel placards of people who die. There are an estimated 35,000 placards in use that are tied to individuals who have died. In addition, DMV records indicate that more than 26,000 people older than 100 have the placards, but only 8,000 of them are known to live in the state.
  • The DMV does not limit the number of replacement placards a person may receive, and placards are automatically renewed every two years -- making it easy for a person to get multiple placards. The State Auditor identified two people who received 20 replacement placards in a span of just three years.
  • The DMV does not take adequate steps to make sure applications are legitimate, such as regularly auditing applications to ensure that a driver’s disability is thoroughly described and that the medical provider’s signature is authentic. For example, 73 percent of applications reviewed by the State Auditor did not provide sufficient details about applicants’ disabilities. Doctors’ signatures are not verified, and the medical providers’ eligibility to certify disabilities aren’t checked either. Eighteen percent of the applications reviewed by the State Auditor had questionable signatures, potentially calling into question more than 260,000 applications in a three-year period.
  • When the DMV conducts sting operations, it generally finds that 15 percent of the placards examined are not being used legitimately.

The State Auditor made several recommendations to the DMV, which the department has agreed with and says it is implementing. The auditor’s report recommended that the Legislature tighten oversight of the department and its program for disabled driver placards and plates.

Senator Hill’s bill will implement those recommendations by

  • Requiring the DMV to conduct quarterly audits of applications and work with state health boards in analyzing the applications to ensure that information from medical providers is complete and the individuals providing it are authorized to do so.
  • Require the DMV to use the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to cancel placards whose permit holders have died.
  • Require all permanent placard holders to reapply every four years.
  • Require applicants to provide proof of their name and date of birth, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate.
  • Limit the number of replacement placards that can be obtained within a two- year period to two placards. If more replacements are needed, placard holders would need to reapply for a permit.
  • Add podiatrists to the list of medical providers able to certify applications related to disabilities of the foot or ankle.

“These changes to state law, along with program changes made by the DMV, will go a long way toward reducing fraud and abuse of the DMV’s placard program,” Senator Hill said. “We must make sure the drivers who need this important program have access to the benefits it provides – and block scofflaws and fraudsters from gaming the system.”

The legislation will be amended into what is currently Senate Bill 611 this month. SB 611 will retain its existing provisions as a technical follow-up to Senator Hill's SB 1046 -- the bill that extended and expanded California's pilot program requiring DUI offenders statewide to install ignition interlock devices. Governor Brown signed SB 1046 into law last year.

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Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404 cell, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov