Lots of cars have no front plate

The in basket: Tom Forstall writes, “I noticed that several cars in the Whaling Days parade (mostly ‘Vettes and Jeeps) didn’t have front license plates.  All just didn’t have a license plate; they didn’t have anything to attach the plate to.  So what is the requirement for a front license plate?  Only if it’s possible to attach one?”
The out basket: It’s been only a few weeks since we last addressed this, but the disparity between the correct answer and real life compels me to reopen the discussion.


The in basket: Tom Forstall writes, “I noticed that several cars in the Whaling Days parade (mostly ‘Vettes and Jeeps) didn’t have front license plates.  All just didn’t have a license plate; they didn’t have anything to attach the plate to.  So what is the requirement for a front license plate?  Only if it’s possible to attach one?”
The out basket: It’s been only a few weeks since we last addressed this, but the disparity between the correct answer and real life compels me to reopen the discussion.
While Tom was at Whaling Days, I was at the Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival. I noticed a lot of vehicles without front plates going the other way on my way there. While there, I counted those in one row of parked cars and found three of about 40 without front plates.
The official answer is the front plates are required without a hard-to-get State Patrol exemption. But there are a surprising number of cars out of compliance.
Ron Zude, a Kitsap County deputy sheriff, enlivened the discussion with an e-mail.
“Front plates not being displayed is a growing problem in Kitsap,” he wrote. “I stop at least two a week, and will generally issue a correction notice unless I’ve stopped the person before. It’s apparently all
about aesthetics, nothing else. Most of the offenders are teens to late 20s, and a majority of the cars are ‘Fast and Furious’ style imports.
“Kitsap saw a huge front plate problem after the first ‘Fast and Furious’ movie came out. Deputies started enforcing the front plate law aggressively and we put a damper on much of the problem. However, it is again growing.
“We use that front plate to solve all kinds
of crimes, especially those that have just occurred and we are headed to the location. We look for that plate on our way to the scene. Cars headed away from the scene with no front plate displayed really make finding the criminal very hard.”
Ron told of a case “where a guy refused
to mount a front plate on his Mustang, saying that it was a custom car. He petitioned the WSP for a waiver of the front plate requirement and was denied – six appeals, all denied. I learned that there are three vehicles that
have been granted license plate waivers due to the design of the front end, but don’t recall what they were. They were very, very, rare and expensive cars, however.”
When I asked him if he could explain what Tom Forstall and I see on the street, he replied, “I wish I knew why so many people don’t comply with the license plate requirement. All I can do is stop one at a time.”

17 thoughts on “Lots of cars have no front plate

  1. Mr. Forstall comments about the vehicles in the parade with no front plates. Most parades and car shows will feature ‘classic’ cars. If the vehicles are over 30 years old and are licensed as a collector vehicle or horseless carriage they are only given one plate for the rear by the State. The same goes for classic vehicles with the Year of Manufacture (YOM) plates. Only one is required. Of course vehicles licensed as such are restricted in use and not allowed as daily drivers. This being summertime with several classic car shows around the Puget Sound area, the number of ‘one plated’ vehicles on the road will rise.
    The only car model I have ever heard of that was exempt from having two plates was the Delorean, since attaching a front plate would require cutting into the stainless steel car body.
    P Petrinovich —
    Washington license plate collector/historian —
    ALPCA 4327

  2. I am not sure why you guys are wondering why people are not putting front plates on their cars. The reason is simple, they don’t want to and there is little or no consequence or much of a chance of getting caught. It is just another symptom of disreguard for the rules. Running red lights and speeding are a couple of others. Have you ever driven around Kitsap county at the posted speed limit? You get tailgated, passed and looked at like you’re an idiot. I don’t want to hear one of your usual answers like “when I drive I don’t see speeders” or “running red lights isn’t creating a hazard”. Just ask the young cops family. The fact is, people don’t give a damn about the laws and no one is enforcing them. Next time you drive in Kitsap county, hang up your cell phone, turn down the radio, leave the coffee in the office, both hands on the wheel, go the posted speed limit, and take a good look around you.

  3. There are several classes of cars which do not require a front plate; collector cars, antiques (horseless carriages), perhaps others.

    I own one of these, and was only issued one plate.

    If these cars were in a parade, perhaps they fell in one of these categories.

  4. A bit more on license plate history re front plates: Washington has always used them, except in the period from 1951 through 1954 when single plates were tried as a cost-cutting measure. After the ’54 plates were issued, there was so much uproar from people, and particularly law enforcement folks, that the Legislature again required plates to be issued in pairs. This cost the state a lot of money because front plates had to be made and mailed out to all the registrants who had already bought their single 1954 plates. So even though there are a dozen or so states that only require one plate on a car, Washington will probably never be one of them, with the exceptions that Paul noted for various types of collector vehicles.

  5. I have a “fast and furious” car as stated before and I disagree with your statements. I like how you guys associated “fast and furious” cars with looking for criminals and habitual law breakers. I’m constantly being harassed by the local police for having a hobby probably much like you had when you were young. Only now it’s a different time and style. It’s called vehicular profiling.

    I think that front license plates shouldn’t be required. They don’t require tabs and don’t need lights for night time driving like the rears. Why should older cars or exotic cars be exempt? Because they were the cars that you grew up with? Or they have enough money to pay their way out?

    I personaly don’t have them because I don’t have a mounting bracket on my “fast and furious” bumper and it would block air flow going to my radiator and intercooler.

  6. Modern cars are not made for a use to place a dish in the front anymore. Forcing owners to damage vehicles to drill holes in front bumpers just to attach a licence plate makes no sense. The fact is, a damaged vehicle will hinder the vehicle’s resale value. The fact is when the resale value is lowered due to this requirement, government will lose significant amount of money in sales tax revenues, meaning more lack of funds for officer equipment, pay raises to officers, and lack of funding to maintain and upgrade highways. These factors will lead to a significant loss of economic development.

    Authorities will concentrate more to target dangerous driving than to utilize their valuable time simply pulling drivers over for a vehicle’s appearance such as a lack of a front plate. Many crimes currently taking place will be solved more easily due to the fact officers will arrive the scenes quickly and not spend time confronting and ticketing drivers for not having a front dish on their personal properties.

  7. I have a luxury German car, and these cars have no mounting area for license plates. If I were to drill holes in the front bumper to mount a plate it would cause hundreds of dollars in damage to the paint, lower my resale value, block airflow and decrease gas milage, and just plain look ugly.

    I think the law is ludicrous because there are no lights for night driving to illuminate the front plate, and even if there were, look in your rear view mirror one night and try and see the front license plate…impossible unless there is oncoming traffic to reflect light on the plate.

    Plus the stamping, coloring and mailing of these plates takes away from Washingtons budget to improve roadways, which I think anyone who has driven on the Peninsula period would agree have room for some improvement.

    I think a petition should be started to change the law like the other 20 or so states have done now, and if there already is a petition, then where do I sign?

  8. I just purchased an Infinity G35 coupe, which doesn’t have any preset holes or bracket for a front plate !
    Here in TX you are required to have a front plate, but I think I won’t drill holes on the bumper as it would damage it for no reason !

    I may look to use magnets if available, if not I will not drill holes on a bumper that I paid for and the state of TX won’t reimburse me for !

    Why should I get penalized, and other “classic” car owners aren’t ?

  9. Yes, it may be true that many leave the front plates off due to asthetics, but what’s the purpose of having a front plate at all? Especially when, as others have pointed out, they don’t require tabs and are not required to be illuminated. Several other states don’t require them, why is that? Seems to me having plates issued in pairs is simply a waste of taxpayer’s money.

  10. The above-noted commentary by a LEO is total b.s. There is absolutely no way that a front license plate helps in detecting or investigating crime. Have you ever, once been able to successfully read a front license plate on a car when it, and you, are both moving? I didn’t think so. States frequently use prison labor (they do here in MN) to make plates, and it costs the state next to nothing to actually produce the plate, yet my registration is sky high, supposedly to cover the cost of the plate (and the value of the car – MN bases its registration on the car’s value, not weight, as if a more expensive car somehow manages to damage a road more than a cheap heavy duty truck!)

    Front plates are a boondoggle, nothing more. 12 states do not require front plates. As for the “Fast & Furious” problem – try driving a new ‘Vette and see how much LEO attention it attracts!

  11. OK, everyone mentions about not mounting the plate on the front of their vehicle. I have my plate in my front window and I got pulled over the other day and was told that was illegal. I thought it had to be visible from the front of the vehicle correct?
    There’s plenty of cars out there that have their plate in the window just like mine. i don’t drive a “fast and furious” style car but a 4-wheel drive truck and I’ve mounted my plate on the front and it gets ripped off while i’m off-roading. What else am i supposed to do? My truck’s not old enough to get collector’s plates. I agree with everyone else who question why we have front plates in the first place.

  12. My fiancee just got pulled over in our Camaro here in Tacoma for not having a front license plate. He issued us a $124 ticket, and also cited us $550 for no insurance.
    The front end of our car has no possible way to mount the plate except if we buy a completley new grill and modify it, taking away from the look of the car.
    Also when the car was sold to us, only the rear plate came with it. I agree, it’s vehicular profiling, my fiancee is 21 years old driving a Camaro, come on.
    We have 15 days to try to fix it and they will change it to a warning, but I don’t know where we can get a new plate in that amount of time.

  13. All you little whiners crying about airflow and drilling holes should have thought about that when you bought or brought your car to Washington. The fact is that plates are readable on cars heading your direction, and ARE used to solve crime. Quit whining, mount the plate, or cough up the $124 each time you get stopped. Your choice.

  14. All this front plate talk and yet no-one actually went to go look up the RCW?
    Give it a rest, folks, nearly everything I read above is pure rubbish; you can get a front plate waiver for many reasons through the Washington State Patrol and not “break the law!”
    YES “blocking air flow through a grill” is considered a mechanical compromise reason but you must also have no other reasonable place to mount the thing. Below is the basic code and the WSP has the guidelines as to what’s “impossible”. They are reasonable and there are a few new car designs that would probably qualify for the waiver, such as, the Pontiac Solstice (I know this because I am researching the issue before I buy the car as it’s a valid concern regarding strain on the cooling systems as a front plate covers over 40% of the air flow porting) would more than likely qualify and others, usually smaller cars, but not always. There are also other issues, such as how high a plate will stand above the cars hood, so some cars don’t qualify for a front plate legally in any way. Note it cannot be less than 1’ from the ground nor more than 4’ above the ground and there’s more beyond the code, all safety installation issues and the code cannot be condensed enough to cite every situation thus it’s done through human reasoning and responsible application of the WSP.
    The RCW…
    “Each vehicle license number plate shall be placed or
    hung in a horizontal position at a distance of not less than one foot
    nor more than four feet from the ground and shall be kept clean so as
    to be plainly seen and read at all times: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That in
    cases where the body construction of the vehicle is such that
    compliance with this section is impossible, permission to deviate
    there from may be granted by the state patrol.” ~ RCW 46.16.240.

    Next time go look up the codes and stop guessing or pretending to know the law. The law is not always unreasonable and the reasoning for front plates only has to do with the plates reflector value in the evening hours, nothing else. It simply says at night, “Watch out, I’m a car parked here or I’m not driving with my lights on”. That is straight from the legislators mouth regarding this issue, it’s simply a safety issue and when that safety issue creates problems beyond the issue’s reason, then the state has allowed the plate to be removed as to not cause other more severe or problematic issues.
    Yes, front plates are ugly on some cars but that is not enough reason to keep them off your car. I have a truck, the front plate is fine by me as it is, but, I will not purchase a car that has to have 40+% of its cooling ports blocked, that’s just a problem waiting to happen and a strain on the AC condenser pump that will cause less effective fuel efficiency etc. It’s not an appearance issue, it’s an issue regarding the mechanical systems and the cars safety features on the front end.
    BTW… simple reflectors would not immediately tell a night time motorist that it was a car parked ahead of them or a moving car with its lights off, a license plate’s reflection is unmistakable.
    I would recommend that if one does get a front plate waiver that they place some sort of reflector tape on the front of the vehicle, be it a couple dots on each front side of the bumper region or whatever.
    As per buying a new expensive car and simply not wanting to drill holes in it… not good enough, they make double face tapes that sick like an SOB and it’s the same stuff that holds on most manufacturing emblems, it can be removed later without any serious blemishes. I do agree that in some cases a front plate is as ugly as ugly can be, but, ugly is not good enough reason to compromise the general public’s safety, as in that case, anyone could use the ugly claim and no-one would have a front reflector plate.
    I personally think that a given type of front reflector system would be better, but it would have to be adopted by the auto manufacturers and then the states could drop the front plates everywhere. In the future with smaller cars on the horizon, front plates will only cause many problems beyond and it’s time to start thinking about the issue now and legislating the issue properly.

  15. The front license plate is just ridiculous. Since when does the officer follow you from the front of your car? That would be an accident waiting to happen.
    If an officer saw you in wrong -doing, he will pull you over regardless, then from behind will get your plate number.
    There are a bunch of laws that need to be without and is just a waste of time and money. If this is cut out, we will save so much money every year in licence plate cost.
    As for Big Brother taking photos, you will see that the pictures are taken from the rear of the vehicle. I would like anyone to debate this with me, I challenge you.
    This front licence plate thing is a joke!!!!!!

  16. Well to start off when i got my car change to wa plate tag I ask the lady who gave me the tag where can i get the plate done in the front? she said she didn’t know that i should have the plate at all times. She was rude about it to cause the state i came from didnt require a front tag until i moved here. Im military and it was hard to ask other people around me cause they didnt know the question to. How am i suppose to know where to get it done when the people are telling me they dont know and i get stuck with the ticket. To top it off i ask the cop to to put it that way he didnt know….

  17. Kitsap cry babies. Oh yeah I bet you put tons of dangerous criminals away via front plates! Props to the officer who gives out warnings, and admits its about aesthetics. Do you other people really think people do it for blatant disregard for the law, if that were the case wouldn’t those people drive with no plate at all? I have had cars with and without front plates, no plate just looks better on most cars, people (especially from rural areas who don’t usually look behind them when parallel parking) use them as bumpers, then the screws and bracket mess up the real bumper, which people normally avoid when bare in fear of being sued or reported to insurance. Oh yeah fast and the furious!?, where do you think they get their inspiration, you guys are waaaaay behind the curve!

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