Bridgewater Police Chief Noted 'Outright Abuse' Of System

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New Jersey officials announced plans Wednesday to cut down on the misuse of handicapped parking spots.

People with disabilities will now be required to have their medical conditions recertified every three years to qualify for New Jersey’s handicapped parking privileges. The changes take effect August 1.

As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported, officials decided to act on the issue when widespread abuse of handicapped spots was noticed by Bridgewater officers two years ago.

“It was just an outright abuse of the placards and the system itself,” police chief Richard Borden told reporters including Putney.

Borden added the amount of abuse was an eye-opener. They cited over 300 cases in less than two years. Borden said without a change in policy, those improperly using the spots would likely continue to do so.

“They thought this was almost a right that they had received,” Borden said.

Joseph Young, executive director of Disability Rights New Jersey, told 1010 WINS there was an excessive number of people without disabilities using the placards.

“Before the law was changed…there was no check on whether the person was still alive or whether they still needed it,” Young said. “One of the things that enforcement people have found is that person may no longer be living and then family members continue to use the placard. The whole purpose of this is just to get placards and hang tags out of circulation when they’re no longer needed.”

Drivers must have medical conditions reclassified by a qualified practitioner every three years in order to obtain a new handicap placard.

Those who already hold handicap placards will not need to submit recertification until their current privileges are due for renewal.

The placards will also be redesigned to make the expiration date clearly visible and to prevent alterations. Handicap license plates are renewed every year but are also subject to the three-year medical recertification.

“These spaces are not just a convenience, they are a necessity,” New Jersey Motor Vehicles Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez said. “This should help to weed out abuse.”

In the past, motorists would be required to undergo only an initial medical classification to qualify for the special placard and license plate. After that, materials would be renewed by mail every three years.

There are more than half a million placard and license plate holders in the state. The MVC has already begun mailing registration renewals explaining the new law.

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