Lifetime handicapped parking permits will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new state law cracking down on abuse of the permits.
Starting January 1st, the bright blue placards for the permanently disabled will be good for only five years, after which they will need to be renewed.
Acting Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe says there are approximately 530,000 lifetime permits in circulation.
He says that includes some abuse.
“There are people that use their grandmother's placard without grandma in the car,” Lowe says, “or that retain placards after someone has passed away and don't turn them in and misuse those.”
But Lowe stresses that many users have a legitimate need, even though it might not be apparent to a casual onlooker.
The new law grandfathers in current permit holders who won’t be subject to the new renewal requirements.
Statehouse lobbyist Brian Johnson has a permanent disability.
He believes some drivers are using permits passed down to them from parents or grandparents.
“You have to be careful to judge people as they come out of their vehicles,” Johnson said during debate on the bill. “But I think there's a lot of them out there that shouldn't be used and if we could draw them in it would be beneficial for people who really need them.”
“Sometimes I think people put these placards in their wills and they’re passed down from generation to generation,” said Sen. Dick Dearden (D-Des Moines).
Some advocates for the disabled argued handicapped drivers and passengers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops.
“The argument for someone who is permanently disabled is I'm permanently disabled,” Lowe says. “If I've lost a leg that's not going to change.”
Lowe says as a compromise, the permit will last five years instead of one or two years.
Lowe says the DOT will be writing rules to make the process as easy as possible, including renewing electronically instead of having to show up at a DOT licensing station.