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Seeking the more perfect choice

OK, an ethical question of sorts for y’all.

I have a friend who has a disabled placard for her car; she can walk, but her joints are bad and painful, and she has chosen to minimize her walking. I have borrowed the car for the day, as I do fairly frequently. Of course, I don’t park in the spaces reserved for handicapped people, because I can walk just fine. Usually when I am borrowing the car, she is babysitting the Youngest Member, so I just park in our driveway.

Tonight, we are meeting in a public place, that is, a place with a parking lot and handicapped spaces. When she drives there, she parks in the handicapped area; the person giving her a ride will probably drop her at the door. I could, legally and legitimately, park her car in the handicapped space, and when we come out to the car, there it is. I could also, legally and legitimately, park her car in the other end of the lot, and then when we come out to the car, I could go and get it and bring it around to the door. It would be a little awkward, and might well involve blocking a bit of traffic while we are switching drivers, but still, very doable.

On the other hand, easier for me to just stash the car in the handicapped space.

What do you think? Is there a general principle involved? Or does it all depend on the weather?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Let's say you worked for a car delivery service -- there's a website, a user picks a car, they pay $25,000 with Paypal, you bring them the car. It would certainly be appropriate for you to drop the car off in the handicapped spot so she could pick it up easily. So that part is OK.

However, you will actually be going into the public place, and it's inappropriate for you to benefit from her placard. So the ethical thing is to park in the handicapped space, walk away from the building approximately half as far as where you would have had to park, and then go in.

More seriously, though, the class of unethical behaviors around these placards presumably involve filling the space (thus blocking other potential users) when a handicapped person won't benefit as a result. I don't think that applies here.

I'd park in the other end of the lot, and then when we come out to the car, I'd go and get it and bring it around to *one of the handicapped spaces*, so the driver-switching wouldn't be in anyone's way no matter how much time it took.

I think that if you're parking in the handicapped space for her comfort and convenience, it's 100% fine, even if she's only getting into the car after she meets you, and not getting out of it when you arrive. If you arrived together, and had plans that she would leave by herself while you drove her car away, wouldn't you park in the handicapped space?

Hm. That's an interesting question. Yes, I think if we were arriving together (let's say, at a restaurant), and I was leaving with her car, I would park in the handicapped space, rather than dropping her at the door and parking at the other end of the lot. Good point.

Of course, it depends, to some extent, on whether there are enough handicapped spaces; I am assuming that if I do not park in one of them, someone else will, rather than the space remaining empty. But it would take (1) a serious scarcity of spaces, (b) bad weather, and (iii) lots of time on the front end for me to decline to park in the handicapped space, but let her off at the door and park elsewhere. So the same should logically apply to the other end of the meeting, right? Hm.


Your friend is the top priority; other disabled people are a 2nd priority; the environment is a 3rd priority.

She's going to be walking out to the car, right? According to your top priority, leave it where it is easier for her to get to it. On the assumption that your 2nd priority isn't being affected, then parking farther away and having to drive back to the front door is worse for the environment.

On the other hand, if the handicapped spaces are likely to be full and you'd be forcing a truly disabled person to have to walk farther, then yeah, park farther away, then bring it around when she's ready.

Ask us a hard one. ;)

An update: I did, in the event, park in the handicapped spot. At the end of the evening, my friend was quite sore, and initially asked if I could bring the car around anyway, which of course I was happy to do. She reconsidered the idea of waiting in the freezing wind, though, and walked with me the short distance to her car. So it worked out OK, I suppose—particularly as if there was some poor sap with a disability placard forced to park at the other end of the lot, I didn't see it.


There's a related authority to look to, which is what is legal. For Connecticut, "A placard cannot be displayed on a motor vehicle unless it is being operated by, or carrying as a passenger, the individual to whom DMV issued it... Vehicles bearing a special license plate may not use a handicapped parking space when the vehicle is not being driven by, or carrying as a passenger, the person to whom DMV issued the special plate." If the disabled person wasn't in the car when it was parked, I don't see why you wouldn't be ticketed.

Ticketed if a zealous law officer (or hostile witness) witnessed the parking, perhaps; however, in the event described, I doubt that a reasonable traffic judge would make the charge stand if contested in court.

Ultimately, a person has only broken the law if they give up, if they run out of money, if a court refuses to hear an appeal, or if the SCOTUS decides they have.


Wow, what a… poorly written law. I mean, is it legal to use the parking space while the issue-ee is driving the vehicle? At what speeds? The text appears to say that no-one can leave the car parked in the handicapped parking space, as while the car is empty the licensee is neither driving nor a passenger.

I am not sure how that text works in the case irilyth proposes: if she arrives in the car and parks it in the space, clearly she can't be ticketed. If she wants, then to lend the car, does she need to sit in the passenger seat while the borrower pulls out of the space? I suppose so, and then, once out of the designated space, you can kick the owner to the curb.

Still, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Good to know.


Most laws are poorly written. But this one is pretty consistent across states and is interpreted pretty consistently to mean that if the disabled person isn't in the car when the car parks, you don't use the handicapped space.

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