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Published by Kenric Ward

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Published by: Kenric Ward on Jan 02, 2013
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License Plate Study
An Assessment of the Current State of License Plates andTheir Potential to Promote Public and Highway Safety and toContribute to Transportation Funding in Virginia
November 9, 2012Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
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P a g e L i c e n s e P l a t e S t u d y
At the request of the Chairmen of the Senate and House Transportation Committees, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), in consultation with the Virginia State Police (VSP), convened a working group of interested stakeholders to assess the current state of license plates and their potential to address theconcerns of highway and public safety and transportation funding.As requested by the Chairmen, the study included:(i) options for improving the readability of license plates, including standards for design,display, and legibility, and the potential for the use of new technology for license plateproduction;(ii) methods for identifying, or helping to identify, illegible, obstructed, damaged, orimproperly mounted license plates, including the possibility of a license plate check aspart of the annual motor vehicle safety inspection process;(iii) the viability of a license plate replacement program;(iv) the implications of various options for the elimination of one or both decals on licenseplates; and(v) the implications of and options for the elimination of the front license plate forpassenger vehicles, including statewide elimination, replacement of the plate with awindshield sticker, and the allowance for the display of a single plate for vehicles withno front mounting bracket.The study also addressed the feasibility of issuing European‐style license plates.More than 35 stakeholders from state government and the private sector worked collaboratively withproject staff to study the issues and develop recommendations through a series of meetings and othercommunications. Four committees facilitated work on the project: Plate Design, Number of LicensePlates, Plate Enforcement, and European Plate Design. Committees met between one and three times,following an initial kick‐off meeting inApril 2012.The recommendations of the study are based on committee discussions, research and additionalinformation gathered and provided by stakeholders. Of the recommendations, the most important arethat Virginia retain its requirement of two license plates on vehicles and that Virginia maintain monthand year decals on both plates. The law enforcement community’s strong endorsement and rationalefor maintaining two plates were instrumental to the team’s decision. Having two plates increases theirenforcement ability by providing a second opportunity to identify a vehicle, especially when the vehicleis carrying equipment, a plate frame, or any other device that obstructs the rear plate. In fact,intentional and unintentional obstructions, not legibility, are law enforcement’s major concern.Additionally, toll collectors and Commissioners of the Revenue were in favor of maintaining thispractice, because the second plate increases their effectiveness as well. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) also supports the use of two license plates. With the decision tocontinue issuing two plates, research did not support eliminating or modifying expiration decals.
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P a g e L i c e n s e P l a t e S t u d yThe study included the concept of using a windshield sticker to indicate expiration or as a substitute fora front plate. Using a windshield sticker was not recommended because of concerns with the cost, sizeand placement of the sticker, and unfamiliarity by lawenforcement and customers.Additional recommendations include:1. Evaluating existing and new license plate designs, as appropriate, for conformance withselect AAMVA plate design best practices.2. Continuing to have VSP review new license plate designs to ensure that the license plateis readable on a vehicle, but enhancing that review to include evaluation of the platesunder optimal conditions at a distance of no less than 75 feet in the daylight and atnight using low beam headlights. In addition, the committee recommends that newplate designs be photographed using an automated license plate reader (ALPR) by bothlaw enforcement and toll facilities prior to approval of the designs.3. Continuing to research the feasibility and benefits of technologies, such as bar codesand radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, on license plates.4. Reintroducing the “Illegible License Plate Notice” (form VSA‐28) and process, whichwere created for law enforcement to use when a vehicle has illegible plates. Submittingthis form to DMV places a stop on the DMV vehicle record, which prevents registrationof the vehicle.5. Reissuing stolen personalized plates only to the original owner, with a warning letterabout the ramifications of having a plate that has been reported stolen.6. Using the vehicle safety inspection program to identify illegible plates.NOTE: VSP does not support this recommendation because inspecting license platesfor appearance is subjective, and falls outside the scope of the inspectionprogram, which is to ensure mechanical operation and equipment safety. VSPbelieves that this determination should be left to sworn law enforcementpersonnel.Adopting and implementing these recommendations will enable Virginia to continue to use licenseplates to promote public and highway safety and to contribute to transportation funding throughout theCommonwealth.

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