More than one in 22 people in England have a disabled parking badge, a higher proportion than before the pandemic.
There were 2.57 million valid blue badges at the end of March last year, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data.
This signifies 4.6% of the population, up from 4.1% in 2019 before COVID began.
In the year ending March 2023, 1.14 million badges were issued - an increase of more than 100,000 (9.7%) on the previous year.
The eligibility criteria for blue badges was extended in 2019 to include people with non-visible disabilities such as Parkinson's, dementia and epilepsy.
Blue badge owners are allowed to park for free in pay-and-display bays, and for up to three hours on single and double yellow lines.
This enables those with disabilities and other health conditions to access places more conveniently, and in London holders don't have to pay the congestion charge - £15 daily during charging times.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The number of blue badges now issued reflects their value to disabled people and their families in enabling them to enjoy anything like the convenience and mobility the rest of us probably take for granted.
"Anyone grumbling about the number of parking spaces reserved for blue badge holders or, worse, simply disregarding the rules, would do well to remember that one day it could be them struggling to make everyday trips."
The DfT has not published prosecution figures for abuse of the blue badge system for the second year in a row.
People can abuse the system by using a badge that is no longer valid, letting a friend or relative use one, or by making a fraudulent application in the first place.
Graham Footer, chief executive of charity Disabled Motoring UK (DMUK), said the lack of abuse figures by the DfT was "extremely disappointing".
The DfT said data on prosecutions for misuse of blue badges has not been collected since 2021-22 due to the burden on local authorities of providing the statistics.
Blue badges must be renewed every three years.