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Parking lot respect

There's a large blue square painted on the pavement, or maybe it's pink, and in the crowded parking lot, it's the closest available parking space to the front door.

The weather outside is miserable - a typical day this time of year in Newfoundland and Labrador - and you think to yourself that you'll only be a minute or two - not long enough to inconvenience anyone.

What you should have actually been thinking is that one thought you have every time you head to the store for a quick minute for one or two items and spend 30 minutes filling up a shopping cart.

Or maybe, you have an empty car seat or handicapped parking permit in your vehicle, but no one with you that, not only legally but also ethically, qualifies you to pull into one of these coloured spaces.

These two scenarios are in a minority in the game of finding the nearest parking space closest to the entrance, but they do occur, and unfortunately, they are very often not punished.

However, in some cases, a fine is slipped under the windshield of the illegally parked vehicle, but even this has raised questions in the province's capital city.

Yes, the City of St. John's is questioning whether or not the parking ticket it currently issues is actually a deterrent enough to stop the action.

The City is proposing a fine that it thinks will reduce the number of illegal users in these all-to-important parking spaces to those who truly need them.

It is looking at a significant jump - $75 to $400 - for a handicapped-parking infraction. That's nearly a 500 per cent increase, and certainly sounds much more likely to keep a driver from taking the chance of pulling into one of those blue spaces.

However, should it be necessary to raise the fine by such an extreme amount?

For those falling into the first category of the above offenders - that's those who don't require the space for any reason other than a shorter distance to the entrance - the reality of walking an extra 30 seconds from a parking spot a few spaces away should be completely embarrassing.

Embarrassing why you might ask? Simply put, you gained one minute of total time - 30 seconds in, 30 seconds out - in your mad dash to get those one or two items.

Think about it.

Speaking of thinking about things, for those in the second category, think about how when you legitimately need the blue or pink parking space and have been circling the parking for 10-15 minutes waiting for one to open.

Then, all of a sudden, you see someone run out of the store, jump into their vehicle (which may have a parking permit or car seat), and race away. No reason to have parked there at that time other than they could trick a law enforcement officer if one came by checking for illegal parking.

Once again, think about it, and how this would make you feel.

Back to the fine, and whether or not an increased amount will work.

It will in some cases, but for some people, especially when time is of the essence, no dollar figure will matter. They would rather take the gamble on being caught than walk an extra minute to and from the store.

While what the City of St. John's is trying to do is admirable, it might be better if it, as well as all municipalities in the province, look at a much more significant punishment for offenders.

Let's say a tow away and impoundment fee, or how about having to pay for and complete an ethics course on illegal parking before their impounded vehicle is returned?

The punishment needs to be enough of an inconvenience to the illegal parker that he/she gets the message that it is not right to park in either of these spaces unless it's absolutely necessary for their intended purpose.

With or without punishment, it's simply a matter of respecting that these spaces are placed where they are for a reason, and if you do so, you, in turn, show respect to those who truly need these parking spaces.

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