I’m writing this letter at 4 a.m. after waking up from a nightmare.
I have them several times a year, and they’re always the same: One of my daughters has been hit by a car in her school parking lot.
Since my girls started kindergarten, we’ve had a disabled placard for autism. Children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are eligible for placards because they can startle or bolt from a loud noise, pull away without warning, or simply focus so intently on something else that they’re oblivious to danger.
In preschool, one of my girls panicked in a gravel lot and ran until she fell, scarring her lip. The other once bolted in a grocery parking lot, and I had to carry her sister in order to run after her.
The lot at our elementary school in Verona is the only one where we regularly see illegal parking in disabled spaces. Several times a year, someone pulls in fast with their car angled sharply toward ours, over the yellow lines.
More often – about three to five times a month – they just park in the neighboring space with their engine running. Sometimes they smile and explain that they’re just dropping off, not really parking.
Last year, I began writing down license numbers and taking photos. There are now a few parents who glare whenever we make eye contact. Once I got into a shouting match – not a proud moment, but I’m still stunned that anyone would yell about her right to park illegally in a disabled space at her child’s school.
Here’s why I’m wrecking my social life, looking unhinged, and bursting out crying in the principal’s office: If you pull into that space one day and hit my child, I want to know who you are. If you have a habit of parking illegally, I want to hand that information to the police, to a lawyer, to anyone who will hold you accountable.
If you’re one of those parents, I don’t think you’re doing it maliciously. You’re in a hurry, or it’s cold outside, or the first two rows of spaces are full. You’re careless, not evil. You don’t wake up, like I do, with the image of what can happen when a child takes two steps away burned into your brain.
Fellow parents, please don’t park in disabled spaces. Not even if you’re just dropping off.
City of Verona