New rule requires proof of disability

Oregonians using disabled parking permits will have an extra hoop to jump through when renewing their licenses after New Year's Day.

The Legislature passed a law requiring Oregonians using disabled parking permits to provide the Driver and Motor Vehicles Division with a medical professional's certification of their disability each time they renew their licenses.

Drivers are required to display a disabled parking placard in order to park in designated parking spots. A placard user may be either the driver or passenger of the vehicle.

Drivers previously needed medical confirmation only when they first applied for a placard. However, some drivers continued using the placards after the short-term disabilities ended. Although stiff penalties existed, enforcement was apparently another matter.

"There was a challenge enforcing the law," said DMV spokesman Kevin Beckstrom. "This was supposed to close loopholes. It is the best fix the Legislature could come up with."

There were 72,000 disabled parking placards in circulation during 2008, including 32,000 issued for the first time.

Although Oregon drivers licenses are good for up to eight years, chances are the change will catch senior citizens who have carried placards for lengthy periods by surprise. It will also likely mean scheduling an extra visit to the doctor's office in order to get a signature.

"I think there is always someone who is going to push the rules," said Patti Proctor, executive director of Medford Senior Center. "I work around seniors, the good portion who do have parking permits."

Placards can block a driver's view, so the permits are often relegated to the glove compartment or console while the auto is in operation.

"The No. 1 challenge is for them to remember to hang them up when they park," Proctor said.

While many of the senior center regulars won't have to renew their licenses for several years, she said it might create difficulties for some.

"It's kind of like the 85-year-old World War II vet, who was born in a rural area in the winter and his parents never bothered to go into town to get a birth certificate," Proctor said. "Now he needs one. They're doing this for the general good, but it's (because) just a few people are pushing the envelope."

The new certification must be dated within six months of the applicant's driver license or identification card renewal.

"There are all kinds of reasons people could get a disabled parking permit," Beckstrom said. "Everything from recovering from surgery to illness. But when the recovery is over, they can't use them."

Applicants must renew their driver's license or photo ID card, along with any disabled parking permit, in person at a DMV field office.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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