Park in the right place

We hope the consensus continues to grow that able-bodied people who park in handicapped spaces are creeps.

An Ohio woman who started a Web site to complain about the mis-use of handicapped parking spaces -- www.handicappedfraud.org -- has been flooded with postings from people in 26 states who share her contempt. Many of the postings included the license plates of vehicles who illegally used the spaces, which were forwarded to motor vehicle departments.

Apparently, this has grown into something of a trend nationwide. States and cities are cracking down on those who park in spaces labeled for the disabled. Many cities also have increased fines.

In several cities, money from fines not only paid for the cost of additional enforcement but also produced significant revenues for the cities. In other words, the crackdown more than paid for itself.

While most people have been guilty from time to time of infractions such as exceeding the speed limit or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, there is something particularly despicable about able-bodied people using a handicapped parking space. They are guilty not only of breaking the law but also of laziness, selfishness and thoughtlessness.

We wonder what the big deal is about getting a parking place close to the entrance of a building. What's so hard about walking the extra few feet?

We find it ironic that people will jockey for the closest parking spot to the mall entrance -- and then go inside and walk for miles while shopping. We know of people who will look for the closest parking spot outside the gym or YMCA -- where they are going to exercise!

We understand the desirability of a nearby parking space if it is raining or if someone is in a hurry and just wants to pop in and out of a store. But imagine how much more difficult any trip is for someone who is handicapped. You could be depriving that person of a parking space.

In most states, people with handicapped license plates, stickers or plastic tags that hang from rearview mirrors may park in designated spaces and often may park for free at a meter. But it is illegal to borrow someone's tag and use it without the person being in the vehicle. It also is illegal to use a tag of someone who has died.

Penalties, appropriately, are stiff for violating those rules. In Rock Hill, fines range from $276 to $440, with higher fines for repeat offenders and those who use a tag fraudulently.

The high fines should serve as a deterrent. But so should one's conscience.

Next time you're tempted to park illegally in a handicapped space, walk the extra few feet instead, and be glad that you can.