Handicap Parking Fines More Than Triple In Oklahoma

Have you ever parked illegally in a handicap parking spot?  Just for a second?  It can’t hurt anyone, can it?.  Next time you do, think of Harvey Cooper, and his bum legs and lungs.  “I have trouble walking… plus I’m out of air,” Cooper told me in short breaths, with clear tubes pumping oxygen through his nostrils.  “I wear this oxygen all the time.”

If Harvey Cooper’s condition won’t make you think twice before scooting into that handicap spot and running into the store, maybe a new Oklahoma law will.   The law more than triples the fines for illegally parking in a handicap spot.  It used to be $150.  Not anymore.  It’s now $500!

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft co-sponsored the bill.  He says drivers often violate the law because it’s rarely enforced.  Maybe that’s why you may have snuck in and out of that handicap spot and never got caught.  He hopes municipalities and police will pay more attention to the law now that the fine is $500.  “We had to build an incentive because from law enforcement’s point of view it’s a very low priority and they don’t often ticket people,” Wesselhoft says. “And so we had to build an incentive for municipalities to enforce it.”

But while the price of a ticket has gone up dramatically, the threat of getting one may not be any greater than before.  Tulsa police say they write citations not to generate revenue, but because someone has done something wrong.  Officer Jason Willingham says handicap parking violation calls are “an extremely low priority”.

I came across one violator who told me she parks in handicap spots because it’s convenient for her.  She wasn’t aware of the new law.  Here was our exchange:

  • (Me) Do you know what the fine is now?
  • (Woman) No.
  • (Me) It’s $500.
  • (Woman) Is it really? Oh, I better get out of here.  You’re holding me up (laughing).  You’re costing me.

Maybe funny for her.  But not for Harvey Cooper.  He has a message for her and others who make him… with his bum legs and lungs… wait for a handicap parking spot: “Please think of someone worse off than yourself.  Yep.”

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