Disabled drivers must have photo placard by Jan. 1, 2013

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comNovember 25, 2012 

People with disabled-driver placards and license plates issued before 2010 have until Dec. 31 to renew their certificates, according to state law.

However, getting the most recent version of the placards and plates will require more than a trip to the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

A 2009 state law requires placards to include a state-issued photo ID, and an amendment changed parts of the legal definition of "disabled" to be more specific.

Before the changes, the law allowed handicap-parking materials to be issued to anyone with an "obvious physical disability" in walking or functioning without a respirator as determined by a doctor. Now, the law gives more specific parameters doctors should use to determine driving disability. Those parameters include cardiac or lung restrictions, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or if the person cannot walk 100 feet without extreme pain or difficulty, for example.

The changes required the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles to make new forms for disabled-driver certification, which means current placard-holders must be re-certified as disabled drivers by a doctor, according to DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks.

The DMV has been issuing the placards with photos since Jan. 1, 2010, and those without them expire by the end of this year.

Parks said the legislation was updated to make it easier for police to tell if non-disabled drivers are abusing the placards.

If a placard-holder is a passenger in a vehicle, a registration card matching the placard must be in the vehicle.

Violations are misdemeanors and carry fines of $500 to $1,000, or a jail sentence of 30 days, according to the law.

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