WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

More & More States Go to Flat Digital License Plates

Once upon a time, 48 states typically issued EMBOSSED license plates; one state issued DEBOSSED plates (Vermont); and Delaware mostly had FLAT license plates, neither embossed nor debossed. (Which one time prompted a U.S. border guard at the U.S./Canadian frontier to question the validity of my Delaware license plate!)

But, first, I started noticing flat Washington, D.C. plates.

And, on my just concluded road trip to the Rockies (Wyoming & Colorado), I noticed an increasing number of flat license plates.

So I did a little research.

These states have now switched to flat, general-issue plates:

Alabama; Indiana; Iowa; Montana; Nebraska; South Dakota; Tennnessee; and Wyoming.

Other states are apparently testing digital flat plates.

Of course, Delaware's license plates have been flat for nearly forty years, but Delaware switched from screen-printing to digital flat-plate production in 2002 under the Minner Administration.

The trend to digital flat plates has triggered some debate among law-enforcement officials, license-plate aficionados, and indeed, even environmentalists, about the pros and cons.

The hottest debate revolves around visibility, that is, whether the flat digital plates are easier to read. The dominant manufactuer, 3M, claims enhanced visibility. Some cops aren't so sure.

Of course, size and spacing of numerals and letters - and the color contrast - may be even more important.

Pennsylvania issued some attractive historic specialty plates not too long ago with insufficient contrast between the letters / numerals and the background. (The next time you see a PA "Flagship Niagara" or "Preserve Our Heritage" railroad locomotive plate, see if you can distinguish the white numerals and letters from very far!)

Posted at 6:28pm on July 27, 2009 by Allan Loudell

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