This is the first in what will probably be an irregular series of roundups, bringing you number plates news from around the world.
Number plate diversity
All countries have some kind of registration plate system for vehicles, but the details of those systems vary widely, as do the physical characteristics of plates and the rules and regulations governing their use. All this variety naturally makes for some interesting news items.
Here are just a few recent stories from the weird and wonderful world of car number plates.
Duplicate plates cause headaches for Massachusetts drivers
The Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts, USA has revealed that there are more than 160,000 current instances of registration number duplication in the state. That means that over 160,000 motorists are currently driving around in vehicles bearing the same number and letter combinations as at least one other vehicle. Consequently, drivers are complaining that they are receiving other drivers' violation notices in the mail and suffering penalties as a result.
The root of the problem seems to lie in the fact that Massachusetts, like many other states, issues several different types of plates: there are different plates for commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles. There are also vanity plates (equivalent to our private number plates) and "specialty plates", which feature a design that may promote a sports team, a charity or a cause, such as nature conservation. In the past, it seems that the system allowed the same character combinations to be issued on plates of different types, so a state-issued plate on a passenger vehicle could receive the same registration as a commercial vehicle or one with a vanity or specialty plate.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles claims that systems upgrades in 2019 stopped the issuing of duplicate registration numbers. However, there are still upwards of 160,000 duplication cases amongst numbers currently on the road, and the Registry says they currently have no plans to address these existing duplicates.
Cars bearing Russian number plates banned in Latvia
A draft law that has already passed its first reading will, if it becomes law, mean that cars bearing Russian plates will either have to leave Latvia, or their owners will have to re-register them with a Latvian number. A period of three months will be given from the date the new law takes effect for re-registration or removal to take place.
After the three-month transitional period, anyone on their way to another country, wishing to pass through Latvia in a vehicle bearing Russian plates, will have to apply for permission. Latvian authorities cite security concerns stemming from Russia's attack on Ukraine as well as road safety concerns about Russian cars that don't meet EU standards.
If the new law comes into force as expected in mid-November 2023, Latvia will join the other Baltic states, along with Norway and Bulgaria, who have also banned Russian registered vehicles from their roads.
New Yorkers told to destroy their old number plates or face penalties
Drivers in New York have been reminded that they are fully responsible for their old unused licence plates.
When selling a car, the owner should return the vehicle's plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Otherwise, however, if they replace damaged plates, or remove their old ones to fit vanity plates, they should ensure that the unwanted set is rendered unusable. If they don't destroy them, and the plates fall into the wrong hands, the owner may find themselves liable for someone else's traffic offence penalties.
As in the UK, attempting to convince the authorities that plates have been cloned, stolen or otherwise misappropriated can be a slow and exhausting process.
Surrey driver nicked for hiding registration number with... leaves.
Police stopped a speeding car on the A3 in Surrey and found that the driver had obscured parts of their front and rear plates with leaves, thus masking a character from speed cameras.
One might think that using leaves was a cunning idea. As wet leaves stick to all kinds of surfaces, the car may just have driven through a lot of damp, fallen leaves. Could happen to anyone. Unfortunately for the criminal mastermind behind the wheel, the fact that the leaves were stuck in place with double-sided tape made it rather obvious that they'd been put there deliberately.
Police issued a fixed penalty notice for the illegal camouflage and a traffic offence report for the speeding.