Wheels24

Crackdown on 'blue badge' cheats

2011-12-30 13:07

The UK will crack down on drivers who use forged car badges to abuse the disabled-parking system.

Previously, blue badges were hand-written on card but from January 2012 disabled drivers will be able to apply for an electronically printed badge, much like a driving licence. The new badge will have security features such as a unique hologram, digital photo and serial number allowing parking attendants to check for genuine badges more easily through the windscreen.

'Blue-badge' fraud is estimated to cost the UK the equivalent of R579-million a year. The new badge is part of a wider crackdown on misuse of the scheme to ensure disabled parking spaces can only be used by those in need.

Transport minister Norman Baker said: "Drivers who pretend to be disabled to get free parking are disgraceful. They prevent real blue-badge holders from using parking bays designed for those genuinely in need and they cheat the vast majority of road users who play fair when they park their car.

"Our new blue badge will be as secure as a banknote and anyone thinking of faking it can forget it. We are also tightening up on enforcement and eligibility so there will be no way to scam the system," he said.

NEW BADGE SYSTEM


Blue badges provide a vital lifeline to more than 2.5 million disabled people every year by prioritising key parking spaces close to important services. However, increasing levels of badge fraud have meant those spaces are often full.

IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “While this is a welcome modernisation and security improvement to the blue badge system, much more must be done to expose those people who abuse the scheme by using the badge of a family member or friend to park in reserved parking bays.

“In the USA, police and parking officials have the powers and duty to enforce parking spaces reserved for badge holders – not just on roads but in public and private car parks too – and very heavy fines are levied on offenders. There must be much greater emphasis on enforcement by police and local authorities if this parking fraud is to be stopped," said Greig.

Helen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Disabled Motoring UK, said: "After years of campaigning for improvements to the blue badge Scheme, I’m delighted that changes that make the scheme fit for the 21st century have been introduced. The new badge design will stop badges being so easily forged and new guidance to local authorities will make the issuing of badges fairer.