This article might explain why Mark is leery of NOT drilling the front plate holes for Texas JGC's. If you are in a state that does NOT require front number plates, you should let him know ASAP
Published: 31 August 2013 11:19 PM
Updated: 31 August 2013 11:49 PM
Here I am, The Watchdog, solving the mystery of the front license plate. On an important day, too. Today is the day a new law takes effect.
If your vehicle doesn’t have a front license plate, or a rear one for that matter, as of Sunday, you’re looking at a $200 fine. Yep, starting today. (See? Real news you can use right here in this column!)
Which leads to another amazing discovery I made while solving the mystery of the front license plate. (More news coming!) For the past two years, until today, Sept. 1, any motorist in the state of Texas who was stopped for not having a front or rear Texas license plate could not be fined. That’s right. Not be fined.
Legislators in 2011 accidentally removed the punishment portion of the license plate law. (Uh-oh.) The law was on the books, but the fine was inadvertently deleted. (Embarrassing.) That made traffic cops much less likely to make stops for a missing front plate. They could write tickets with no fine. (Where’s the fun in that?)
In Texas, a law enforcement officer is allowed to stop any vehicle if a front or rear license plate is missing. It’s the same as an officer making a stop when a driver runs a stop sign, makes an improper lane change or, everybody’s favorite, drives too slow.
Now, with the punishment tacked back on to the law, the fine for a missing front or rear plate is specifically set at no more than $200.
The mystery of the front plates in Texas came up when I mentioned it in a recent Watchdog report that the license plate law is a personal pet peeve. If Texas requires a front plate, why is the law rarely enforced? The result is a lot of cars without front plates. How come they get away with it? Either enforce the law or dump it.
I see it as a safety tool that helps eyewitnesses and law enforcement identify the bad guys. Front plates double the chance for a clear ID of, say, a hit-and-run driver, a child molester or a killer.
Drivers, including Corvette and Prius owners whose cars don’t come with ready-made front license plate brackets, tell me they are concerned. Hey, nobody wants to drill holes in their beauty’s front hood.
One reader suggested, “Instead of forcing the law, why not eliminate front plates? Lots of states do not require front plates. The extra plate costs the state money. Put the savings in the highway fund.”
Another: “I think if cops would include checking stickers and license plates to the list when they pull someone over it would start to force more people to get current. Right now cops only ask for driver’s license and insurance.”
Car and truck owners without front plates may now be rushing out to Pep Boys for brackets. Or they could be running to their favorite auto parts website for the right make and model number. Yep, it’s my personal pet peeve, but please don’t blame me.
Who then? I looked up the recorded vote this year for House Bill 625, author, Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving. The state Senate voted 31-0 for the new law; the House voted 139-4.
I talked to representatives of the San Antonio and Houston police departments who lobbied for it. Summarizing, they said both front and rear plates make it easier and safer for police to do their jobs.
With a money fine back in the law, San Antonio police Sgt. James Jones says he expects more officers to make no-front-plate stops.
“That would be enough to pull somebody over,” he said. “That is a traffic violation.” Officers will check for driver’s license, insurance and any outstanding warrants, he says.
I understand there are people across Texas who will not believe this is happening, people who’ve driven without front plates for years, and yeah, the Corvette and Prius owners.
There’s a bit of urban folklore about front plates in Texas. Considering the bungling in state law that was corrected, that’s no surprise. But let there be no doubt. The law is clear.
As of Sept. 1, 2013, it is required that all registered vehicles, including commercial vehicles, must display both front and rear plates.
“An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200.”
Let the drilling begin.
Follow Dave Lieber on Twitter at @Dave Lieber.