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Editorial: Sticker shock

Long lines at Motor Vehicle Registration in Mount Pearl have been the subject of complaints for years. Now people can book their appointments online.
A lineup outside Motor Vehicle Registration in Mount Pearl, back in the days before people could book their appointments online. — Telegram file photo

It’s a sticky situation. Or better yet, a sticker situation.

It’s been four months now since the province’s motor registration division stopped sending out paper vehicle registration reminders — and it looks like people might not have gotten the message.

In a most unscientific of surveys, a Telegram staffer walking to and from work on different routes counted more than 40 vehicles with expired stickers: 17 going one way, 24 going another.

Many of the owners of those unregistered vehicles may have no clue that they’re breaking the law, but you can’t legally drive a car with an expired registration.

If you’re ticketed for driving an unregistered vehicle, the fine’s $200 for the first offence. A fine like that might well jog a person’s memory about when their plates expire.

The Highway Traffic Act says, “A person shall not operate or, being the owner, allow another person to operate, a motor vehicle on a highway unless the motor vehicle is registered (and) there is affixed to the motor vehicle and a trailer drawn by the motor vehicle, in the manner prescribed in this Act or the regulations, valid identification plates or markers issued under this Act …”

There you go.

If you’re ticketed for driving an unregistered vehicle, the fine’s $200 for the first offence. A fine like that might well jog a person’s memory about when their plates expire.

But that’s not the only problem. Say you’re living in rural Newfoundland, and drive 40 minutes or so into Clarenville with your spouse to get groceries — maybe it’s summer and the windows are down, and you’re in a good mood when you leave town and don’t notice that you’re still in a 50 kilometre an hour zone. After pulling you over for a speeding ticket, the RCMP officer runs your licence plate information and adds on a $200 ticket for driving an unregistered vehicle.

But that’s just the beginning. You can’t drive it away — that’s another offence. Are you going to leave it on the side of the road until stickers come in the mail? Are you going to get it towed? And how exactly are you, your spouse and all your groceries getting home?

The stated reason for dropping the printed notifications, as we pointed out in April shortly before the change came into effect, was to save money and reduce waste.

“Renewal notices generate approximately 10,000 pounds of waste annually. Discontinuing sending these reminders by mail will save resources, energy and money,” the motor registration division said.

You can sign up for email notification — which, in many cases, might be enough, as long as you see the email and didn’t change email providers. Oh, and if you noticed the single line of text on your last paper notification and actually registered online.

The same holds true for driver’s licences — something some people may only discover when they get pulled over, or when they try to board an airplane for a trip, and are told they can’t fly because their photo ID has expired.

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