People without disabilities are not being punished for parking in many handicapped spaces, due to a loophole in Pennsylvania law that is likely to be closed soon, officials said.

The current law says that in order to issue a citation or tow the vehicle, a sign must spell out the penalties.

But, officials said, due to a lack of communication between the two state agencies, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor and Industry, that oversee handicapped parking, many handicapped spaces don't have the correct signs.

Rep. Steve Nickol, a Republican from York County, is sponsoring legislation that would tighten the rules.

"Gradually, people have learned it's unenforceable," Nickol said. "So you have teenagers parking at the mall, thumbing their noses at security."

Under a measure that Nickol sponsored, drivers who park in a space with a sign that doesn't spell out penalties can be fined a maximum of $50. If the signs do specify the penalties of a fine up to $200 and towing, those penalties would still apply.

The measure is part of a transportation bill that cleared the Legislature last week. A spokesman for Gov. Mark Schweiker said he will probably sign it into law soon.

Nickol said he sponsored the measure at the request of a handicapped constituent who approached him about the problem.

Lori Rohrbaugh, who uses a wheelchair, said when she confronts people who misuse handicapped parking spaces, they rarely apologize.

"I said `Are you aware you can't park here?' He didn't say nothing. He just got in his truck and left," she said when describing a recent incident in which someone parked his truck next to her van, making it impossible for her to use her wheelchair lift. "Total disrespect. No apology."

Rohrbaugh said she wishes that Nickol's measure had higher penalties for violators.

"Read the sign," she said. "Does it have to be neon and blink?"

Information from: York Daily Record

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