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Editorial: Plates are passé

Licence plates were fine back in the day, but with today’s technology, there are more efficient, less expensive alternatives. — Stock photo
Licence plates were fine back in the day, but with today’s technology, there are more efficient, less expensive alternatives. — 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday’s editorial was on the continuing problem of repeat offenders buying used vehicles in this province, and then driving them without registration, insurance or even transferred ownership.

Those drivers run up huge fines they never intend to pay, and increase everyone else’s insurance costs.

We talked about ways to try and stop those drivers, right down to requiring someone selling a used car to keep the plates as part of the sale — so that anyone buying the car would have to register the sale.

The law says you have to have a licence plate openly visible, but if it’s stolen, well, that’s your problem. Meanwhile, someone else benefits from what you paid for.

But here’s a novel idea we didn’t consider: why have registration stickers on licence plates at all? You can understand that police want a unique identification number on a vehicle, so that they can identify vehicles quickly. The problem is that plenty of people want to avoid the problem of actually paying to register and insure a vehicle, so instead of doing that, they steal plate stickers, abscond with entire plates, or sometimes use tin snips to cut the corners off other people’s licence plates so they can get away with the stickers quickly.

Such thefts don’t stand up to close scrutiny; as soon as a police officer gets close enough to ask for a vehicle’s registration, the charade is over.

But the person who has lost a sticker or a plate to thieves can be in the unfortunate situation of not being able to drive their vehicle until they’ve gone to Motor Vehicle Registration and gotten a new plate or sticker, and paid $30 to do it.

The law says you have to have a licence plate openly visible, but if it’s stolen, well, that’s your problem. Meanwhile, someone else benefits from what you paid for.

Why is it like that? This is, after all, 2018.

Instead of a validation sticker on your licence plate, wouldn’t it be simpler to have a passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) sticker that you could put on the inside of your back window?

Police could use a tag reader from the comfort of their front seat to see if your vehicle’s registration was expired, or if it actually belonged to a different vehicle. New RFID tags can cost as little as 12 cents apiece, and if the government actually used its own vehicle management system, they wouldn’t have to be reissued every year — saving mailing costs as well.

The tag could be configured to store only the needed information; the date the registration is set to expire, the registered owner’s address, the type, make and colour of the vehicle — in other words, just the information that your registration documents already carry, and that police officers can already call up by running your plates.

And it would be inside your car.

That might not be the whole solution to the problem. But it is 2018, and we’re still bolting a piece of embossed metal onto our cars. Just like in the 1900s.

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