New law triples fine for parking in disabled spot

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A new law passed this week could keep disabled parking spots open for people who need them.

People with disabilities in Eau Claire said they see people parking in disabled spots without a permit every week. The fines have tripled, and now they're hoping drivers will think twice.

“If I have to park further away, it kind of makes me anxious because I know other people in vehicles don't always look for people in wheelchairs or with physical disabilities so there's a greater chance of us getting hit by a car,” Ashley Parkhurst , a senior at UW Eau Claire with cerebral palsy said. She uses a power chair to get where she needs to be, but that can be even more challenging when people park in disabled spots without a permit.

“It is very often. Sometimes people think that they're just going to be in the store for a quick minute and it's ok for them to park there. But what they think is going to be a quick minute might turn into an hour or longer,” Parkhurst said.

“I see it a lot at grocery stores and at the university as well.”

WEAU searched lots at UW Eau Claire, Mega and Festival foods and found one violator at Sacred Heart Hospital; parked in a disabled spot, without the proper permit displayed on its plate or visible on the mirror or dash.

A new law signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) triples the minimum fine for doing so, going from $50 to $150.

“I don't know if just the notion of the fine will necessarily help. People might have to get a ticket or two for it to really sink in. But I think it is a good effort to try and improve the situation.

Drivers like Anne Wickland of Eau Claire agreed.

“It's just sad that people wouldn't think of others. It's just when we're able bodied, we can walk those long distances. Why take those spots from others who can't?,” Wickland said.

“It makes me angry and I wish there was something that we could do to prevent people from parking there other than raising fines. Hopefully this will help,” Parkhurst said.

Eau Claire police said they check spots in public places and take these violations seriously issuing tickets when they see it happening. The new fine amounts go into effect Friday.

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