A new electronically printed badge for disabled drivers will crack down on Blue badge fraud that costs the UK £46 million a year, Transport Minister Norman Baker said today.
New measures will come into force on 1 January and will replace the handwritten card badges that are abused by thousands of motorists every day. From the New Year, disabled drivers will have to apply for a Blue badge electronically, similar to the current driving licence application.
To halt fraudsters reproducing the new badges, each one will have security features including a unique hologram, a digital photo of the user and a serial number that can be easily identified by parking wardens to check that each badge is genuine.
Norman Baker said: "Motorists who pretend to be disabled to get some free parking are frankly disgraceful. They prevent real Blue Badge holders from using parking bays designed for those genuinely in need and they cheat the vast majority of road users who play fair when they park their cars."
Under the current system, altered expiry dates and forgeries are rife. Friends and family of disabled badge holders often use their cars to park where they please, but, confident in the proposed changes Baker warned: "If anyone's thinking of forging it, forget it."
The Department for Transport has also announced further changes to the Blue badge service, extending it to more disabled children under three years old and severely disabled Armed Forces personnel and veterans. Local Authorities will be given control of NHS spending on Blue badge assessments and independent assessments on eligibility will now become commonplace.
Charity Disabled Motoring UK welcomes the new measures and Helen Dolphin, Director of Policy and Campaigns, said: "After years of campaigning for improvements to the Blue Badge Scheme, I'm delighted that changes that make the scheme fit for the 21st century have been introduced.
"The new badge design will stop badges being so easily forged and new guidance to local authorities will make the issuing of badges fairer."