An April 2017 report by the California Bureau of State Audits found widespread problems with California’s administration of its disabled placard and plate program. Among the findings: thousands of people in the DMV’s database of placard and license plate holders match some 35,000 entries in a federal database of dead people. Nathaniel Levine
An April 2017 report by the California Bureau of State Audits found widespread problems with California’s administration of its disabled placard and plate program. Among the findings: thousands of people in the DMV’s database of placard and license plate holders match some 35,000 entries in a federal database of dead people. Nathaniel Levine

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Capitol Alert

Are dead people taking your parking place?

By Jim Miller

jmiller@sacbee.com

April 28, 2017 12:01 AM

A recent state audit found a serious problem with the way California handles its parking placards and license plates for the disabled: Many of the roughly 2.9 million people with disabled parking privileges likely are dead.

Yet their placard or plate continues to live on and is possibly used by perfectly able-bodied people.

In a computerized cross-check of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ database of placard holders and the federal government’s main database of the deceased, auditors with the Bureau of State Audits identified almost 35,000 likely matches. Given variations on names, auditors said that number could be even larger.

They said DMV officials believe they lack the legal authority to require applicants to provide documentation of their full legal names.

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Auditors found other evidence of the problem. Based on the dates of birth provided by applicants, they determined that nearly 26,000 of the people holding permanent and temporary placards were 100 years or older as of June 30, 2016. Yet they said California’s estimated centenarian population as of 2014 was only about one-third of that number.

“These results indicate that DMV’s process for canceling placards of deceased individuals is inadequate, given that thousands of individuals age 100 or older who are likely deceased still have active placards,” auditors reported.

The findings verified the suspicions of the former lawmakers who requested the audit as well as local officials, who have noted the loss of revenue from metered parking spaces occupied by vehicles with disabled placards or plates.

Some counties seem to have significantly high numbers of disabled parking placards and plates.

In Del Norte County, for example, the ratio of disabled placards and plates to registered cars and trucks is almost 5 to 1, based on December 2015 registration data from the DMV and disabled program records compiled by the auditor’s office. It’s much less in tiny Alpine County, where placard holders represented only 2.4 percent of registered vehicles.

The rate of placards in the names of likely deceased people, meanwhile, ranges from about 3 percent in Inyo County to 1 percent or lower in Sacramento, Stanislaus, Yuba and 18 other counties.

The solution? Among its recommendations, the auditor called on the Legislature to give the DMV the authority to match its placard program against the U.S. Social Security Administration death database, as well as allowing the agency to require applicants to provide proof of their full legal name and date of birth.

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