Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled drivers and passengers, allowing them the ease of parking and helping them to feel settled in society. However, because these badges enable people to park for free in pay and display bays in certain areas, plus for up to 3 hours on yellow lines if it safe and not an obstruction, makes them a huge target for thieves.
Recent statistics have shown that blue badge theft in England has quadrupled in 4 years with nearly 3000 stolen in 2016-17 compared to 650 in 2013. The numbers from 2013 were still 14% higher than 2012, showing a steady increase over time. The Department for Transport has attributed 98% of these thefts to people wanting to be able to park for free and in priority spots.
The biggest number of burglaries happened in London, with 196 stolen in Islington, equating to 26 in every thousand blue badges taken. Theft rate is higher in the congestion zone as blue badge holders can apply for exemption from the congestion charge, as it is harder for them to walk around London.
English councils can take legal action against those who are misusing a blue badge, either via theft or by borrowing it from a friend or family member.Last year 1,131 motorists were taken through this process. In fact, the Department for Transport reports showed that 2016 saw an 84% surge in prosecutions for misuse of a blue badge.
New plans to be introduced
Around 2.4 million people hold a blue badge in England, and they allow people to visit the shops and to see friends without having to worry about their mobility causing issues once they reach their destination. There are plans to offer these to another million drivers with hidden disabilities such as autism and dementia. These plans could help individuals to feel more comfortable in situations that they might otherwise find upsetting.
Hopefully, it will help them to feel less anxious about putting their safety at risk should they not be able to park in a predictable and convenient place. This would be the most significant change to blue badge rules since they were introduced in 1970, and calls have been made for clear and consistent guidelines to be put in place, to stop fraud and theft. At present, many authorities are only happy to give people blue badges if they have issues with their mobility, but this new rule would give them the freedom to base their decision on other factors too.
What do you think?
At PetrolPrices.com we carried out a Facebook poll on whether people think that blue badge holders should be allowed to park for free in hospitals. 33% of people said that they should, with the other 67% of people disagreeing. However, some comments suggested that people thought that no one should have to pay if they were legitimately visiting the hospital. This raised the issue that people will park in free hospital car parks near to town centres to go shopping, meaning that patients find it harder to park.
However, the Scottish government scrapped hospital parking charges in 2008 for patients and NHS staff, and this saved people more than £25 million over seven years which relieved many individuals of the financial burden that extra costs at a difficult time can cause. This is in contrast to the record £174 million that the NHS made from charging patients in England during 2016-17, with more than half of trusts charging disabled people to park.
It is important that people are aware that borrowing blue badges from friends of relatives counts as misuse and that they could be prosecuted. As they are such high value due to the cost of parking and driving today, it may be that we continue to see the number being stolen continue to rise.
What do you think of the new plans for blue badges? Do you think that the number of thefts will continue to rise? Let us know in the comments?