Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The `Rules' of the Road May Push Some Drivers Right Round the Bend

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The `Rules' of the Road May Push Some Drivers Right Round the Bend

Article excerpt

YOU'RE PROBABLY breaking the law.

To find out if you are, go outside and look at your license plates. We'll wait.


You're a lawbreaker if you've enclosed your plates in a frame that covers part of the text - the "Missouri" or the "Illinois," for example.

And if that's the case - you'd better sit down: You're eligible for a year in jail in Missouri or a $500 fine in Illinois.

In Missouri, state law says that you must install your plates so that "all parts thereof shall be plainly visible and reasonably clean so that the reflective qualities thereof are not impaired."

In Illinois, the law is similarly turgid, decreeing that plates have to be fastened horizontally at least a foot from the ground and that they "shall be maintained free from foreign materials, including tinted glass or tinted plastic covers and in a condition to be clearly legible."

Despite the laws, many cars and trucks on the road carry license plates enclosed in plastic frames covering the lettering.

Sure, the frames convey plenty of information on their own, like the name of the dealership that sold you your car, or the name of your favorite team or some hokey saying about spending your kids' inheritance. But while the frames advertise for your dealer or demonstrate your taste in hokey sayings, they don't do much else. They don't, for example, hold the plates onto anything.

More importantly, you're hiding what the law says you should be showing.

"Some of these license-plate holders interfere with an officer's ability to read a license," said Capt. Clarence Greeno of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "And they are illegal."

Troopers are more concerned about covers that obscure the state name, the letters or the renewal tag. They're not so worried about the "Show Me State."

If you're breaking the law, you probably won't go to jail, even though that's one of the allowable penalties. You probably won't even get a ticket. But troopers often pull motorists over and give them warnings.

Greeno himself stops motorists for such violations. "I got one last night on the way home," he said. A plastic covering on the plate "looked just like tinted windows. You couldn't even see there was a plate under there. …

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