Rules of the Road

Disabled drivers can park for unlimited periods of time, for free, just about anywhere

Unless a city has posted a limit, someone who legally parks in a handicapped spot can be there for days or even a week or two before moving.
Unless a city has posted a limit, someone who legally parks in a handicapped spot can be there for days or even a week or two before moving. Getty Images

Question: Is there a time limit on parking in a disabled space? I live in a complex that has only one handicapped parking spot for eight condos. There is someone who parks in the handicapped spot for days or even a week or two before moving. Anyone else who lives in the complex doesn’t have the ability to have a visitor who needs handicapped parking. I was wondering if there is a rule (there is no time limit posted) and how we can go about changing it.

Answer: Here’s the thing; assuming that the tenant that parks for days in a disabled parking spot is disabled and has a valid parking placard or license plate, he or she is not violating any law. The Revised Code of Washington states that a disabled person can park for unlimited periods of time in a parking space for free. This includes parking spaces with a disabled designation, regular parking spaces, and even metered parking. If there is a posted time limit for parking, it doesn’t apply to disabled drivers or vehicle occupants unless the limit is clearly indicated as specific to disabled drivers. That time limit cannot be less than four hours.

In some cities (Seattle is an example) any vehicle parked in a public parking space, disabled placard or not, for more than 72 hours is presumed to be abandoned and can be towed.

If this parking lot was public, the local municipality could, if they so chose, put limits on the length of time that a person could use a disabled parking space or establish timeframes for how long a car can be parked before it is considered abandoned. Since the situation you’ve described is on private property, to make any changes you’ll have to start a discussion with your condo association. I expect that any decision your condo association makes would still have to comply with our state’s laws on disabled parking.

Safe driving

If you could do something to make traveling on our roads safer, would you do it? Two students in our community who can answer “yes” to that question with certainty.

Ben and Gus, two fifth grade students at Carl Cozier Elementary School in Bellingham, chose traffic safety as the focus for their end-of-the-school-year exhibition project. They created a traffic safety video (which you can find at: and built a display showing traffic crash data and ways to be safer when driving. They presented their video and display to parents and teachers in the school gymnasium.

I find it remarkable that two students who are still several years away from getting their driver licenses are already making an impact on their community by encouraging adults to be better drivers by slowing down, eliminating distraction and driving sober. (You’re probably getting tired of me saying this, but impairment, speed and distraction are the top three factors in fatal crashes.) Also, if people who haven’t even started driving yet can be a positive influence, there’s no excuse for the rest of us. If you haven’t already, start by following the advice from Ben and Gus. Then encourage others to do the same. The reality is that most drivers are sober, drive at reasonable speeds and pay attention. It’s the minority that cause so many of our serious crashes. Thanks Gus and Ben for your work in making our roads safer.

Road Rules is a regular column on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Doug Dahl is the Target Zero Manager for the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. Target Zero is Washington’s vision to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. For more traffic safety information visit Ask a question.