New website is on the driver’s side for parking tickets
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New website is on the driver’s side for parking tickets

Put that checkbook away; Habatlan says it can get most drivers out of their penalty, and it’s free for now

Parking ticket (photo credit: Flash90)
Parking ticket (photo credit: Flash90)

You might not be able to fight City Hall, but you can fight wrongly issued parking tickets, thanks to a new and currently free service called Habatlan.

Yahel Kaplan, a long-time social activist and entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, will help hapless drivers beat parking tickets that they don’t deserve, filing the necessary forms and paperwork to get the authorities off their backs.

For those who think that people generally get what they deserve, Kaplan says on his Facebook page, here’s an interesting statistic: One out of every two commuters to Tel Aviv who tried to park on the street received at least one parking ticket in 2014, while one out of every five drivers in the city had to go down to the pound to redeem a vehicle towed away because of parking violations.

A poll by the respected Geocartographia polling firm indicated that 82 percent of drivers had complaints about how difficult it was to park in the city, while nearly three-quarters said they would gladly leave their vehicles at home if the city could provide “easy and convenient” transportation, such as a subway or a Jerusalem-style light rail. (Such a system is currently under construction, but the first line in the Tel Aviv light rail, which will travel from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam via the city center, is scheduled for operation in 2020.)

There is, as far as Kaplan is concerned, something wrong with this picture.

“Today and every day, 2,400 parking tickets will be issued in Tel Aviv – the vast majority of them illegally, whether because a parking enforcement official ignored the sticker or electronic parking app, like Pango, that indicated that the driver was parked legally, or because of faded or misplaced signs,” Kaplan’s Habatlan site says.

Parking is just as bad in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Herzliya, and many other cities in the center of the country – and authorities are counting on the fact that the vast majority of people will pay, because if they don’t, penalties and interest accrue, and eventually the local authority issuing the ticket will send out a collection agent whose fee gets added to the fines.

Thus Kaplan began Habatlan (the Hebrew word is a play on the terms for “cancellation” and “lazy person”). Users are invited to submit a claim on the Habatlan Facebook page, and Kaplan and his staff will analyze it and searching for a way to get the driver off the hook.

“We look at the different characteristics of the ticket, including the type of offense, the time listed, condition of the vehicle, and analyze it based on the current up-to-date database of parking regulations in the local authority or municipality where the ticket was issued. We also analyze previous court cases where similar tickets were challenged, and elicit expert opinions on each case. We can then better understand if there is any point in fighting the ticket – and if there is, we do so.”

It’s not about “fixing” legitimate tickets, said Kaplan; if you truly parked illegally, you’re on your own. But for the large majority of tickets in the gray area where it isn’t clear that a vehicle was parked illegally — and those constitute the large majority of tickets, contends Kaplan — Habatlan is ready to help. If Habatlan decides to take on your case, there’s a good chance you won’t have to pay the fine, he said.

The service is free for now, while it’s still in its proof of concept stage, said Kaplan. Eventually, the site will charge money – probably 25% of what the ticket would have cost.

“If we don’t get the ticket revoked, there will be no charge,” he added. “Parking in many places in Israel is extremely difficult, and the laws about parking are a world unto themselves. Our professional staff is ready, willing, and able to ensure that justice is done for drivers.”

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