Obscured rear plates and missing front ones

The in basket: Bob Hulet writes to say he sees many vehicles “with the rear license plate blocked by scooters, ice chests, bikes and dark grey plastic. I thought rear license plates are supposed to be exposed but it appears as no one is concerned about this anymore,” he said.

“Should situations like this be reported and to who, and how do you report it if you can’t read the plates?”

“There are also a large amount of vehicles no longer displaying the plates on the front, as they chose to put on organizational plates or none at all,” he added. “A lot of sports cars are in violation of this, as the manufacture doesn’t put a place for the plate.”

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger says, “Troopers do encounter the situations you describe where license plates are obscured by attachments to the vehicle such as trailer hitches and trailer hitch racks. Another situation encountered is the use of dark tinted license plate covers as well as oversize license plate frames that may obscure all or parts of license tabs. All of these situations are violations of (state law) and as such can get you stopped by a trooper or any other law enforcement officer.” So is having a plate covered with dirt.

“Our troopers are trained and expected to stop violations of the various motor codes, which they can and do,” Russ continued. “The enforcement taken is left up to the individual trooper. Many situations are temporary, such as a vehicle hauling bikes with a bumper rack or some other case where the plate is temporarily obscured. We expect our troopers to make a reasonable common sense decision on any enforcement. Actual citations are rare.

“In more permanent situations where plates are obscured such as with a bumper hitch ball (usually only a single letter or number obscured) or tinted plate covers which can decrease the readability of the license, the troopers still makes a judgment call on actual enforcement. A corrective notice, if warranted, can be issued if the trooper feels that the violation should be corrected immediately or as soon as practical. If the corrective action is not taken within the allotted time period then the trooper has the option to actually issue a citation to the driver.

“There is also an officer safety issue with obscured license plates,” he said. “Troopers radio in the location and license plate of the vehicle being stopped. If the officer cannot read the plate clearly, day or night, and calls in the incorrect or partial license plate, if something goes wrong and the vehicle flees, valuable information may be lost.”

When late Trooper Tony Radulescu was killed, the fact he had radioed in the correct license number of the killer’s car before getting out of his car led to quick identification of the suspect, Russ added. “What may seem to be a simple violation such as an obscured license plate may well be more important than one might initially think.”

I have written before that I can spot a car or truck without a front license plate at least once among any 40 I see coming at me on the highway, even though they are legally required. Last week, I saw three in a string of 20. None were older antique cars that are entitled to have only a rear plate, as I am reminded whenever I write about this, and as I was again this time in a reader comment.

I have to assume law enforcement officers have other things that demand their attention than pulling over vehicless for license plate violations.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, agrees. “When the opportunity presents itself,” he said, “sheriff’s deputies will stop vehicles (for this) and question the driver / registered owner and take action as deemed appropriate.

“However… as you surmised, most of the time deputies are dealing with issues considered more urgent and they have to ignore the violation for the time being.  Additionally, they may notice the plate violation but not be in a position where they can safely conduct a vehicle traffic stop without incurring a risk of creating a traffic safety hazard by doing so.”


One thought on “Obscured rear plates and missing front ones

  1. Surprised you missed this.

    Vehicles with Collector/Antique status, over thirty years old, and for which the owner has paid a fee, and accepted restrictions on the use of the vehicle, require only one plate, on the rear. It need not be current, since it is permanent, and may even be of the year of manufacture.

    In Port Gamble, on a summer Thursday evening, you will likely see more than 3 out of 20! Other venues have similar concentrations, Bremerton and Port Orchard come to mind.

    It’s summertime; one use that is not restricted to these older vehicle owners is “Pleasure”.

    Before anybody thinks that we are getting a free ride, we cannot use our cars for daily use, business, anything other than shows, club activities, testing, and, of course, pleasure.

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