For disabled drivers, designated parking spaces are a necessity of daily life, giving them easier access to stores, medical facilities and other destinations. But many healthy drivers use the spots illegally for convenience.
New numbers indicate illegal use is not only widespread -- it's taken a surprising turn, CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.
David Kasama is troubled by a placard allowing his mother, Mary, to park in a disabled spot. He regularly gets them in the mail, even though his mother -- died nine years ago.
"Sometimes the DMV has figured out that she's deceased, and sometimes it doesn't," Kasama said.
The problem is much more common than anyone could have imagined. The California Department of Motor Vehicles found nearly 60,000 dead people on its list to get the parking placards. Some are returned, but most are misused by those who can't resist the convenience of a prime parking spot -- no need to feed the meter.
"My mom, when she passed away, in January of 2008, we received a new placard in June. And I went right down and turned it in," explains Laurie Wagnon, who also received a placard for her deceased mother. "And they go, 'Well, thank you. Because nobody usually does this!"'
The news only fuels frustration for drivers who depend on special parking fore the disabled.
"And these people that use them fraudulently, don't they have a conscience?" asked Sue Griffin, who is a disabled driver.
There are 2.1 million California drivers who have disabled placards. A whopping 700,000 -- one third -- are used illegally. Fraud complaints are on the rise. And the DMV says the database of its death records is two years behind.
"We don't know how many placards are going out to deceased people whatsoever," said said DMV spokesperson Jaime Garza. "The key here is, if you have one that doesn't belong to you, it is supposed to be for a relative -- you know it's fraud and you shouldn't use it."David Kasama agrees. He doesn't use his mom's placard, but believes the DMV needs to find a way to cut through the bureaucratic red tape."
"I never called them to cancel it or anything, but I figured with the death certificate, they would know," Kasama said.