Rules of the Road: Can you use designated parking without disabled person in car?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 1, 2013 

Question: Is it legal for a person with a disabled sticker to use the disabled parking when the disabled person is not in the car? I see this happening a lot and it angers me.

Answer: The short answer is no. RCW 46.19.050 is the law that governs parking in/with a disabled placard. To find the definition of "unauthorized use" we have to go to the Washington Administrative Code. The WAC that covers this is 308-96B-020 (6) -- When can the individual with disabilities parking privileges be used? When transporting the person to whom the plate or placard is issued.

The second part of this is that not all disabilities are easily identifiable. Don't assume the operator or passenger in a vehicle is not "disabled" because they don't look disabled to you.

Q: I have been under the impression that pedestrians are obliged to walk in marked crosswalks or sidewalks, which is what I do when on foot and when in places like parking lots. If I find myself in an unmarked area, I am careful not to impede traffic by stepping in front of cars. However, as I was recently driving in a parking lot, I failed to anticipate a pedestrian who was about to step in front of my vehicle in an unmarked area. He scolded me for this, claiming that he had the right of way, which I feel is incorrect. Would you please make this matter clear as to the laws in Washington state?

A: I would like to be able to make this more clear, but the RCWs in Washington, with very few exceptions (such as driving under the influence) do not apply on private property such as parking lots. Pedestrians in parking lots need to be aware of the vehicles surrounding them and not step out in front of them without giving the driver time to react. Drivers need to be aware that pedestrians in parking areas may not pay attention and need to be aware that they may step out in front of them. In either case, the insurance companies and lawyers are the only ones that win if the two come together in a crash.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

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