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(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley and Assemblyman John Wisniewski to restrict the towing of handicapped vehicles and require 24-hour access to towed vehicles was released Thursday by the Assembly transportation committee.

The bill (A-2254) stems from a recent incident in New Brunswick in which the city towed the car of a Rutgers student, Sarah Brown, even though the car had a handicapped parking placard. The spot was reserved for a nearby handicapped homeowner, though Brown’s father told The Star-Ledger that the handicapped parking sign wasn’t clear.

The car was towed on a Saturday night, but since the towing company was closed on Sunday, Brown couldn’t retrieve her car and her medicine inside until Monday.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to legislate matters like this, but unfortunately the rights of the handicapped and consumers are not respected,” said Quigley (D-Hudson). “There’s no legitimate reason for what happened. They’re never supposed to tow cars with handicapped placards unless they’re blocking a fire hydrant or creating some obstruction, but this bill would be a step toward ensuring something like this never happens again.”

“This is all common sense, but sometimes you have to legislate common sense,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) “I cannot think of any legitimate reason to tow a handicapped person’s car when it’s parked in a handicapped spot, then lock it up for an entire day. But at least with this bill we’re working to stop it from happening again.”

Under existing law, municipalities can adopt ordinances establishing restricted parking zones in front of a residence of a handicapped person for the exclusive use of that person.

The bill would ensure that a clear sign indicating this restriction is posted at the spot. The bill would also prohibit the towing from a restricted parking spot any vehicle properly displaying a valid handicapped placard or license plate. The person owning the vehicle would still be subject to other penalties that may be imposed for unlawfully parking in a handicapped spot.

Finally, the bill would require any towing company that has a contract with a public entity to provide towing or storage services to provide owners of a towed vehicle 24-hour-per day, 7-days-per week access to their vehicle.

The bill was released by the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee chaired by Wisniewski and now goes the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.

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