Montreal police and Moelle Épinière et Motricité Québec teamed up today to remind motorists of the importance of leaving disabled parking spots open for those in need.

Police spokesperson Steve Girard says the SPVM handed out over 3,000 tickets to Montreal motorists last year for parking in disabled spots. He adds that that number could easily have been higher.

“It’s a big problem,” Girard says.

Jacques Comeau, who uses a wheelchair and is an integration counsellor with MÉMO-QC, says disabled parking scofflaws are not only disrespectful, but also dangerous.

Comeau explains that many vehicles’ rear and side view mirrors don’t allow drivers to completely see wheelchairs because they are smaller and lower to the ground.

“You’ve got to get from your car to the door and the possibility of getting hit by a car backing up is very serious,” he says.

He says that when he arrives in a parking lot and sees all the disabled parking spots taken, he is forced to use a regular parking spot. This creates a difficult and time-consuming situation for him. Other parking spots are smaller and therefore make it impossible to deploy his ramp.

“If I take a regular-sized spot, I can’t get out of my car. If I park at the end of a series of parking spots and someone parks next to me, I’m stuck until they come back out and move so I can get back in my van,” he says.

Girard says Montreal police have not only been ticketing motorists who are parked illegally in disabled parking spots, but also informing stores and restaurants that they must properly identify disabled parking spots with official signs for police to be able to ticket offenders. He adds that painting a wheelchair on the concrete is not enough.

Comeau adds that stores and restaurants also have a responsibility to help police stop people from parking illegally in disabled parking places.

“It’s important that the proper signage is there so they can give out tickets to make people more aware of the problem,” he says.

Girard also reminds Montreal motorists that disabled parking permits are for people and not vehicles.

“This privilege is not for the car… you have to have this card (disabled parking permit) for you,” he says.