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A vehicle registration plate is a metal or plastic plate attached to a motor vehicle or trailer for official identification purposes. The registration identifier is a numeric or alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies the vehicle within the issuing region's database. In some countries, the identifier is unique within the entire country, while in others it is unique within a state or province. Whether the identifier is associated with a vehicle or a person also varies by issuing agency. Depending on the country, the vehicle registration plate may be called a license plate or tag (United States), licence plate (Canada), or number plate (United Kingdom), or rego plate (Australia).
Most governments require a registration plate to be attached to both the front and rear of a vehicle, although certain jurisdictions or vehicle types, such as motorcycles, require only one plate, which is usually attached to the rear of the vehicle. National databases relate this number to other information describing the vehicle, such as the make, model, color, year of manufacture, engine size, type of fuel used, and mileage recorded, during the vehicles annual (or bi-annual) road worthiness test, Vehicle Identification (Chassis) Number and the name and address of the vehicle's registered owner or keeper.
In some jurisdictions, plates will be permanently assigned to that particular vehicle for its lifetime. Some countries permit the re-registration of the vehicle with "personal" ("vanity" or "Cherished Mark") plates. If the vehicle is destroyed or exported to a different country it will require re-registering in the country of import. China requires the re-registration of any vehicle that crosses its borders from another country, such as for overland tourist visits, regardless of the length of time it is due to remain there; this has to be arranged with prior approval.
In others, such as U.S. states, they may require periodic changing. For cost-saving reasons the tendency for the past three decades has been to replace a small decal on the plate or to use a decal on the windshield to indicate the expiration date of the registration. Some jurisdictions follow a "plate-to-owner" policy, meaning that when a vehicle is sold the seller removes the current plate(s) from the vehicle. Buyers must either obtain new plates or attach plates that they already hold, as well as registering their vehicles under the buyer's name and the plate number. A person who sells a car and then purchases a new one can apply to have the old plates put onto this car. One who sells a car and does not buy a new one may, depending on the local laws involved, have to turn the old plates in or destroy them, or may be permitted to keep them. Other states keep the plate with the vehicle when ownership passes.
Plates are usually fixed directly to a vehicle or to a plate frame that is fixed to the vehicle. Sometimes, the plate frames contain advertisements inserted by the vehicle service centre or the dealership from which the vehicle was purchased. Vehicle owners can also purchase customized frames to replace the original frames. In some U.S. states license plate frames are illegal. Plates are designed to conform to standards with regard to being read by eye in day or at night, or by electronic equipment. Some drivers purchase clear, smoke-colored or tinted covers that go over the licence plate to prevent electronic equipment from scanning the licence plate. Although some are legal in the United States, many of these covers are not, and their use is discouraged in other countries. The British system of traffic and DVLA number recognition system cameras incorporate filter systems that make such avoidance attempts unworkable, usually with infra-red filters.
Many jurisdictions have reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions, allowing license plates from other jurisdictions to be used in their jurisdiction. For example, if a vehicle is registered in any U.S. state (or the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory or possession), under federal law that vehicle may be driven into any other U.S. state, and, under international agreements and treaties, into some other countries including Canada and Mexico. The U.S. Government issues license plates directly for government owned vehicles and for foreign diplomats.
Licence plates have been around for longer than there have been automobiles. France was the first country to introduce the licence plate with the passage of the Paris Police Ordinance on August 14, 1893, followed by Germany in 1896. The Netherlands was the first country to introduce a national licence plate, called a "driving permit", in 1898. The first licences were plates with a number, starting at 1. By August 8, 1899 the counter was at 168. When the Netherlands chose a different way to number the plates on January 15, 1906 the last issued plate was 2001.
In the U.S., where each state issues plates, New York State has required plates since 1901. At first, plates were not government issued in most jurisdictions and motorists were obliged to make their own. In 1903, Massachusetts was the first state to issue plates.
UK plates were first required from 1 January 1904 by the 1903 Motor Car Act.
The earliest plates were made of porcelain baked onto iron or ceramic with no backing, which made them fragile and impractical. Few of these early plates survived. Later experimental materials include cardboard, leather, plastic and during wartime shortages copper and pressed soybeans.
Earlier plates varied in size and shape from one jurisdiction to the next, such that if one moved, new holes would need to be drilled into the bumper to support the new plate. Standardization of plates came in 1957, when automobile manufacturers came to agreement with governments and international standards organizations. While peculiar local variants still exist, there are three basic standards worldwide.
Countries with smaller front plates:
Normal vehicles have number plates starting with the letter B, followed by three digits, followed by three letters. The digits and letters are assigned by a registrar. The three letters never include the letter Q, to avoid confusion with O. Botswana number plates have a reflective white front and yellow rear background, and black lettering.
Government vehicles all have the prefix "BX" - these number plates have a white reflective background with red lettering at the front and white on red at the rear. After 'BX' is the last two numerals of the date of issue and then up to four serial numbers.
Botswana Defence Force vehicles have the prefix "BDF" in white on an 'army' green background.
Diplomatic vehicles' number plates start with two numerals which indicate the embassy to which they are attached, then two letters CD (Corps Diplomatique), CC (Consular Corps status) or CT (Foreign Technical and Advisory personnel) and another three digits which are serial. The official car of the Head of Mission uses the letters CMD rather that CD and the private vehicle uses CDA. This series is allocated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Botswana is the former British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, and number-plates then used a 'BP' prefix (then BPA, BPB etc.) followed by up to three numbers, in white on black background, the plates being made in the characteristic style of South Africa at that time.
They drive registered vehicles. The first two number from right to left identify the area do residence. Es. 6 Casablanca center, 72 Casablanca business district, 1 Rabat .....
The history of license plates in Argentina can be broken down in two major phases, the decentralized phase (until 1972) and the centralized one (since 1972). During the decentralized phase, license plates were assigned by each municipality or by the provinces, while during the second phase, the national state took charge of standardizing and centralizing the design and style.
Argentina uses the ABC 123 format since 1995.
Brazil adopted its current system in 1990, which uses the form ABC 1234, with a dot between letters and numbers. A combination given to one vehicle cannot be transferred to another vehicle. Above the combination there is a metallic band with the state abbreviation (SP = São Paulo, RJ = Rio de Janeiro, PR = Paraná, AM = Amazonas, etc.) and the name of the municipality. This band can be changed by breaking the seal (plastic or lead-made).
Each Mexican state issues license plates of a different design. Most states change designs more or less every third year, with each state on its own plate replacement cycle. Every year Mexicans pay the "tenencia" or "revalidación de placas" (car plates renewal tax). A set of Mexican plates includes one pair of plates, a windshield sticker, and in a few states a plate sticker. In 2001 the size of the plate number was reduced to accommodate the addition of the state number, legend indicating the position of the plate on the vehicle ("delantera" (front) or "trasera" (rear)), and additional graphics. European-sized plates do exist in Mexico, but are not official or technically even legal. These generally contain the same design as the standard-size plate in use at the time, and bear the standard letter and number sequence.
Mexican plates come in several different classification: Private, Private Border, Public, Public Border, Federal Public Service, Fiscal and Customs Inspection, Mexico Army, and diplomatic. The border plates were introduced in 1972 and are available in the Mexico-USA border zone. This zone is formed by the Baja California and Baja California Sur states, as well as parts of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. While the state of Nuevo León shares a 15 km (9 mi) border with the U.S., it does not have any cities within the border zone.
Although license plates have only existed for just over one hundred years in the United States and Canada, they have developed a unique history that has undergone several periods and changes.
The first license plates in North America appeared in 1903 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Soon after, other states followed suit, with virtually every state having adopted a form of license plates by 1918.
The first license plates in the United States were made out of leather, rubber, iron and porcelain, painted on the front in usually two different colors—one for the background and one for the lettering. This scheme held true for most states until about 1920. The front of the plate would usually contain the registration number in large digits, and in smaller lettering on one side of the plate, the two- or four-digit year number, and an abbreviated state name. Each year, citizens were usually required to obtain a new license plate from the state government, which would have a different color scheme than the previous year, making it easier for police to identify whether citizens were current with their vehicle registration.
Even before 1920, some states had adopted the technique of embossing the metal plates with raised lettering and numbering, without porcelain, and applying paint all over the plate, directly onto the metal. Minnesota introduced some license plates during this period with three different years embossed into the plate, so that the plates were valid for three consecutive years (e.g., 1918, 1919, and 1920).
In the United States, license plates are issued by each state. The federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. In the United States, many Native American tribal governments issue plates for their members, while some states provide special issues for tribal members. Within each jurisdiction, there may also be special plates for groups such as firefighters or military veterans, and for state, municipality, or province-owned vehicles.
The appearance of plates is frequently chosen to contain symbols or slogans associated with the issuing jurisdiction. Some of these are intended to promote the region. A few make political statements; for example, most plates issued in Washington, D.C. include the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" to highlight D.C.'s lack of a voting representative in the United States Congress. More recently, some states have also started to put a web address pertaining to the state (such as Pennsylvania, which posts the address of its tourism site). In some states (Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and some versions in Florida), the issuing county is listed at the bottom, while Kansas does so with a letter-coded registration sticker; Utah did so until 2003. Indiana county stickers are at the top. Alabama, Idaho, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, Wyoming, some Nebraska and Oklahoma plates designate the county by number code (the latter with a letter) either in the plate number or registration sticker.
Most states use plates onto which the letters and numbers are embossed so that they are slightly raised above its surface. Characters on Vermont plates are engraved onto a large, slightly raised portion of the plate. Several—Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia—have moved to entirely digitally produced flat license plates. Several other U.S. states now use a color thermal transfer production process that produces a flat license plate for only short-run plates such as personalized license plates and special interest plates. The territory of Nunavut has recently introduced the first flat license plate in Canada.
The numbering system of license plates also varies among the jurisdictions. Some states issue a motorist a serial that stays with that person as long as they live in that state, while other states periodically issue new serials and completely rotate out any old ones. Several states do not regularly use certain letters — most commonly the letters I, O, and/or Q — in their plates, except on vanity plates, so as not to confuse observers with the numbers one and zero.
When a person moves from one state or province to another, they are normally required to obtain new license plates issued by the new place of residence. Some U.S. states will even require a person to obtain new plates if they accept employment in that state, unless they can show that they return to another state to live on a regular basis. The most prominent exceptions to this policy are active duty military service members, who legally do not change residence when they move to a new posting. Federal law specifically allows them to choose to either retain the state vehicle registration of their original residence or change registration to their state of assignment.
In the United States, 19 states – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia – do not require an official front license plate, nor do the U.S. Virgin Islands or the territory of Puerto Rico.In 2004 Puerto Rico established the designed of the United States plates and the requirements of the United States plates. In Nevada, front plates are optional if the vehicle was not designed for a front plate and the manufacturer did not provide an add-on bracket or other means of displaying the front plate. In Massachusetts, certain old rear-only plates are grandfathered, but newly issued registrations require both front and rear plates. Vehicles owned by the United States Postal Service, unlike other federally-owned vehicles, do not bear license plates, but rather a postal service number such as on the Grumman LLV.
In 1956, all North American passenger vehicle license plates, except for French-controlled St. Pierre and Miquelon, were standardized at a size of 6 in × 12 in (152.40 mm × 304.80 mm), although a smaller size is used for certain vehicle classes, such as motorcycles, and for the state of Delaware's historic alternate black and white plates, which are 5.25 in × 9.5 in (133.35 mm × 241.30 mm). The plates of Nunavut and Northwest Territories are shaped like a polar bear but bolt to the standard holes. Nunavut has created prototypes of standard license plates with various patterns distinct from those of the North West Territories.
Canadian Forces vehicles that travel on regular roads display licence plates. These vehicles have licence plates issued by the Department of National Defence. Domestic plates were issued by the DND after 1968.
In many U.S. states, license plates are made by prison inmates. Prison inmates in some Canadian provinces make licence plates. Because of this, colloquial terms include "license plate factories" for prison and "making license plates" for serving a prison sentence.
Afghan license plates primarily use Arabic script text and numerals.
The People's Republic of China issues vehicles license plates at its Vehicle Management Offices, under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security.
The current plates are of the 2007 standard (GA36-2007), which consist of the one-character provincial abbreviation, a letter of the Latin alphabet corresponding to a certain city in the province, and five numbers or letters of the alphabet (e.g. 京A-12345, for a vehicle in Beijing or 粤B-12345 for a vehicle from Shenzhen in Guangdong province). The numbers are produced at random, and are computer-generated at the issuing office. (A previous licence plate system, with a green background and the full name of the province in Chinese characters, actually had a sequential numbering order, and the numbering system was eventually beset with corruption).
Yellow plates are issued for large vehicles of Chinese nationality. Blue plates, the most common sort, are issued for vehicles of Chinese nationality, which are small or compact in size. Black plates are issued for vehicles belonging to foreigners and persons from Hong Kong and Macau. Please note this is the license plates for the car originated from Hong Kong or Macau and traveling in mainland China, which means the car has two sets of license plates, this one for use in mainland China, while the other one is the original Hong Kong/Macau license, which is totally different from this numbering system and colors. And it is not easy to get two licenses on the car unless the owner has significant investment in mainland China. For other Hong Kong / Macau cars which have just one license, they can only operate in Hong Kong or Macau respectively. The mainland Chinese plates of these cars follow the pattern of the provincial character for Guangdong (粤), the Latin letter "Z", 4 letters and/or numbers, ending in the abbreviated character for the territory (e.g. 粤Z-AE54港 for Hong Kong) (Black license plates are handed to vehicles of any size, as long as they are from one of the special administrative regions.)
Hong Kong number plates follow British system of coloring, with front white and rear yellow plates. Numbering system is two letters and (up to) four digits, e.g. AB1234. License numbers start from "AM" are government cars. The front white and rear yellow background is a reflective material comply to BS AU145a standard.
In addition, Hong Kong started to have personalize license plates from 2006, with up to 8 selectable letters or numbers.
Macau local license plates follow the Portuguese pre-1992 system of color and sequence. Plates are black background with white numbers. Numbering system starts from M, and then one letter, and then 4 numbers, and separated by "-", e.g. MA-12-34. Earlier numbers will only have M instead of MA or MB or MC.... etc...
The numbers for vehicle registration plates, commonly known as 'number plates' in India, are issued by the Regional Transport Office of each district but vehicle owners have private shops make the plates after registration. The new system which is followed currently in all the states and cities came into effect in early 1990s. The scheme comprises
The Delhi NCR however uses a modified system wherein an additional alphabet is inserted after the RTO code to classify vehicle type. For example, a Delhi registration plate may read DL 12 C AB 0496 where DL stands for Delhi, 12- RTO, C stands for Car, and AB 0496 is the series and number. In this scheme, 'C' denotes Car, 'S' denotes Scooter/Motorcycle, 'R' stands for rickshaw (three-wheeler), 'F' stands for "Fancy" or VIP numbers irrespective of vehicle type; and "P" for Public transport vehicles.
Some states have been adapting the dual letter series code system, for example car series' are CA, CB, CC; motorbike series' are MA, MB and so on. Most states however still use the standard series code, denoted by a single letter of the alphabet. Many people use illegal ways of number plating, like writing in regional script instead of Latin (Roman).They use regional language script like Devanagari, Kannada, Tamil etc. Many of them use plates influenced by EU plates; they have blue band on initial letters.
Current Indonesian vehicle plates share the legacy of the Dutch colonial era, which do not reflect the current regional divisions of the country into provinces, but the old system of Karesidenan regions or regencies. Their prefixes are therefore based on this system. Basically there are four types of plates that are used in Indonesia, all consists of a combination of alphabet and numbers.
Besides these normal plates, there are also military plates for Army, Navy, Air Force, and also the Police. While diplomatic corps get special white plates and black numbering with "CD" prefix. The normal scheme comprises a one or two letters identification for the regencies, followed by an up to four digit numbers for the car's identification, and the last one to three letters are the serial code or district identification. The expiry date of the license is embossed along the bottom and some on the top of the plate. At the middle of the plate number, the numbers are usually random or requested by the vehicle owner and has a maximum of four digits and a maximum of three letters at the end of the vehicle's plate number, for example it could be: (B 1 T), (B 12 TE), (B 123 TE), and (B 1234 TWE). Sometimes the last maximum three letters at the end of the plate identifies the district region of the registered vehicle by the first letter, for example: (B 1234 WEW) which "W" identifies the vehicle is from the region of Southern South Tangerang city (Kota Tangerang Selatan), Banten province. But some vehicle owner may wish they're vehicle's last letters plate for they're own desire but would need more affairs by the local police registering it, for example that the owner's name is "Adi" then he would make he's vehicle's plate number like so: (B 1234 ADI).
The plates usually have their expiration dates shown below or very few on the top of the serial numbers, indicating its expiry month and year, so if it says (03.15) it means that the plate expires at March 2015, so the owner of the vehicle should pay tax and get a new plate at that time, to which the process is redone every 5 years. A new plate design introduced in 2012 eliminates a white line circling the whole plate and has thinner typeface.
Iranian license plates' size are European standard.
Japanese vehicle registration plates fall into two classes: Prefectural, used nationwide, and Municipal. Municipal registration is typically applicable to motor vehicles that will not leave the area, such as light motorcycles.
In the prefectural system, the top line names the office at which the vehicle is registered, and includes a numeric code that indicates the class of vehicle. The bottom contains one serial letter (typically a kana), and up to four digits. The classes of registration plate are divided by vehicle type and engine size. For private vehicles less than 660 cc (40 cu in), registration plates have black text on a yellow background. Above 660 cc (40 cu in), a white plate with green text is used. For commercial, non-private vehicles, the colors of the numberplate are inverted. An official seal is applied over one (typically the left) screw, preventing the plate being removed and applied to another car.
Municipal registration plates in Japan may vary in color and design.
Jordan requires its residents to register their motor vehicles and display vehicle registration plates.
Eight types of license plates are used in Pakistan. Each province and territory issues its own number plate; the federal government issues number plates for foreign diplomats and vehicles owned by the military, police and federal departments (red for foreign diplomats and green for the federal government.) Sindh's number plates are yellow with black letters and numbers for private vehicles and Black number plates with white letters for commercial vehicles; Islamabad, NWFP, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan and Northern Areas have white number plates with black letters and numbers. The number plates also have the province or territory's name at the bottom. In Punjab however, number plates can be of any color the vehicle owner chooses. But legally it is not allowed. The first 2 letters represent the city the vehicle is registered in.
From January 1, 2006, Punjab has started issuing official number plates for all cars registered in Punjab. Number plates are of Green and White color. The green part is the same all over Punjab and has a sign and 'Punjab' written on it, while the white part has the number of the vehicle.
All number plates use the Latin alphabet.
The most common plates are embossed black-on-white to indicate state ownership; plates indicating KPA use are white-on-black. Motorcycle plates are black-on-yellow or black-on-orange. The very few privately owned motor vehicles which exist in North Korea bear black-on-red plates, while diplomatic plates are white-on-blue. Other types of vehicles (trolleys, emergency vehicles, buses/taxis) are indicated with additional numerical prefixes.
In South Korea, 6 types of registration number plates (3 variations of size, both non-commercial and commercial) are issued currently. Prior to 2006, sizes of plates were 335 by 155 mm (13.2 by 6.1 in) for normal vehicles and 440 by 200 mm (17.3 by 7.9 in) for large vehicles (buses with length over 6 metres (19 feet 8 inches) and trucks with payload over 4 t (3.9 long tons; 4.4 short tons)). Since November 2006, standard plate size for normal vehicles was changed to 520 by 110 mm (20.5 by 4.3 in), resembling European Union standard. Nonetheless, older 335 mm (13.2 in) plates are still effective for older vehicles and some models not fit for new standard, which are mostly imported cars. One example is Ford Mustang. Even cars with 520 mm (20.5 in) plate in front and 335 mm (13.2 in) plate in rear are not rare.
Non-commercial vehicles (nationwide registration number "00-X-0000": X is one Hangeul character denoting type of vehicle) bear plates with white background and black letters, while commercial vehicles (Region name is added as prefix like "Seoul 12 GA 3456") with yellow background and black letters. In older system, non-commercial vehicles plates had green background and white letters.
There are a few exceptions, including diplomats and United States military.
In the European Union, white or yellow number plates of a common format and size are issued throughout, although they are still optional in some member states. Nevertheless, some individual member states still use differing non-EU formats - Belgium, for example, still permits vehicles to display the older small white number plates with red lettering, and the license plates that are issued by the government body which assigns these are of the smaller format, too. In 1908 number plates were only 3 Numbers and 1 letter long. Italy still permits smaller plates to be attached to the front of a vehicle, while the rear plate complies to the usual EU format. The common design consists of a blue strip on the left of the plate, which has the EU motif (12 yellow stars), along with the country code of the member state in which the vehicle was registered.
Lettering on the plate must be black on a white or yellow reflective background. With this EU format, vehicles are no longer required to carry an international code plate or sticker for traveling between member states. The non-EU states of Switzerland, Norway and Turkey also recognise the blue strip instead of the traditional white oval with the country code in black.
Diplomatic plates are usually denoted by the letters "CD" in Europe which stands for Corps Diplomatique located usually at the beginning of the number plate (France, Belgium) or middle (Netherlands). The United Kingdom uses "D" for "diplomat".
Germany has selected a typeface which is called fälschungserschwerende Schrift (abbr.: FE-Schrift), meaning "falsification-hindering script". It is designed so that, for example, the O cannot be adjusted to look like a Q, or vice versa; nor can the P be painted to resemble an R, amongst other changes. This typeface can more easily be read by radar or visual license-plate reading machines, but can be harder to read with the naked eye, especially when the maximum allowed number of 8 characters in "Engschrift" (narrower script used when available space is limited) are printed on the plate.
Denmark offers both a European or normal style license plate. They have a fairly similar look, with the EU strip with the letters DK. Both styles are in the XX 12 345 format.
The first two letters run sequentially with no ties to any geographic region.
The first two digits determine the type of vehicle. For example 10 through 18 are reserved for motorcycle.
The registration number of cars in Norway is maintained by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications. As in most countries, cars are identified only by number plates read visually. The current alphanumerical system (two letters followed by five numbers) was introduced in 1971. The design of the plates remained the same until 2002, when the road authorities decided on a new font which standardized the width of each character. The new design was unsuccessful due to legibility issues, for example the letters "A" and "R" were often hard to distinguish. From 2006 the font was changed again to improve legibility, and space was provided for a blue nationality stripe with a Norwegian flag. From 2009, plates were made of plastic, and produced in a factory at Tønsberg. From 2012, plates are again produced in aluminium.
Current Russian license plates it's a mix of French FNI, traditional Arabic "windows", and Soviet "small characters", introduced in 1993. See this for Soviet registration plates.
There are six types of Russian registration plates.
Vehicle registration plates are white and have three black letters followed by a space and then three digits. The combination is simply a serial and has no connection with a geographic location, although the last digit shows what month the car has to undergo vehicle inspection. Vehicles like police cars, fire trucks, public buses and trolley buses use the same type of plate as normal private cars, and cannot be directly distinguished by the plate alone. Taxis have yellow plates, with the same three letters and digits as 'normal' cars, but without the space, and followed by a smaller T (for Taxi.) Military vehicles have four to six yellow digits on black background, and may be used for all kinds of vehicles from ordinary automobiles to tanks.
Ukrainian regular license plates performed in European style in format AB1234CE (prefix means region). In use Ukrainian letters that graphically replicates Romans letters (A,B,C,E,H,I,K,M,O,P,T,X). There were single-line plates for vehicles and trailers, double-line plates for vehicles with special shaped mounting place, three-lined plates for cycles (except scooters with small two-line plates). Yellow background of plate shows publicly using vehicle such as taxi or route bus. Single-line plates have standard European size 520 mm × 110 mm (20.5 by 4.3 inches).
Ukrainian vanity plates are unique in all over the world by availability to choosing any image to print on the surface of plate in right-hand side next to characters.
Vehicle registration plates, usually known as number plates, have existed in the United Kingdom since 1904. Most motor vehicles which are used on public roads are required by law to display them. The Motor Car Act 1903, which came into force on 1 January 1904, required all motor vehicles to be entered on an official vehicle register, and to carry number plates. The Act was passed in order that vehicles could be easily traced in the event of an accident or contravention of the law. Vehicle registration number plates in the UK are rectangular or square in shape, with the exact permitted dimensions of the plate and its lettering set down in law. Within the UK itself there are currently two numbering and registration systems: one for the island of Great Britain, which is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and one for Northern Ireland, administered by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA): both have equal status. Other schemes relating to the UK are also listed below.
In Australia, vehicle registration plates, usually known as number plates or 'rego plates', are normally issued by the State or Territory government; until 2000 some were issued by the Commonwealth government. Plates are associated with a vehicle and generally last for its life, though as they become unreadable (or for other reasons) they may be recalled or replaced with newer ones. New plates are issued when the vehicle is registered in another state, or if the owner requests them (though this depends on state laws).
Australian number plates were originally issued with white characters on black plates, with each state and territory being allocated a range of plates inside the larger range AAA000 to ZZZ999. New South Wales, for example, was allocated AAA000 to FZZ999, Victoria was allocated from GAA000, Queensland was allocated OAA000 to QZZ999 and South Australia was allocated from RAA000. Western Australia was allocated UAA000 and XAA000 .This system worked in theory but was soon altered in practice and by 1980 had been almost completely abandoned, with some states having run out of combinations. Tasmania and the Northern Territory never adopted the system, but the Australian Capital Territory held out to the late 1990s.
The states then chose their own systems. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia all retained xxx-nnn, but each started again from AAA-000. Queensland reversed the arrangement to nnn-xxx. Western Australia took nxx-nnn, and the ACT kept the Y plate range but substituted the last digit for a letter, giving Yxx-nnx. Victoria is currently the last state to retain the xxx-nnn format as South Australia scrapped the old format as of 1 October 2008.
Current arrangements are listed below.
All current plates are manufactured to uniform dimensions and are made of pressed aluminium, except for certain special series plates; the form of which differs by state and design.
In 1942, the government released a new special series only alphabet (XB-AA OPS).
To show that a vehicle is registered in Australia, a sticker must be displayed in the lower left corner of either the rear left window or windscreen in annual colors on a 6-year cycle: blue, red, purple, brown, green and orange. This sticker is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle upon payment of the next year's registration fee, and shows the expiry date of the registration. They are color-coded for easy recognition of the year of expiry. The sticker shows the plate number, Vehicle Identification Number, make, model, and color of the vehicle, along with other such information. This acts as an anti-theft device, because transplanting the plates from one car to another will be in contrast to the details on the sticker.
The Western Australia registration sticker shows only the month and year of expiry. However, since the Western Australian police now have such easy access to registration information based on the numberplate via in-car computer systems found in all police vehicles, registration stickers in Western Australia have been completely scrapped. As of 1 January 2010 they will no longer be required or made - a move that is said to save at least $2 million over 4 years in costs for printing and postage. Car owners will also feel the relief of not having to perform the tedious task of removing and re-applying the registration sticker every 6–12 months. As of 1 January 2013 NSW have also scrapped registration stickers.
The current system used in New Zealand was adopted in 1964, all vehicles were required to have their plates replaced to this system. The original format in this system was xx-nnnn with the original plate being AA1 plates were on a black background with silver text. In 1986 this was changed to a white reflective background with black text with the first plate in this style being NA1. In 2001 the final plate ZZ9999 was printed and the format was changed to xxx-nnn. In 2006 the text format was changed on all number plates registered after this time.
Personalized number plates were introduced to New Zealand in 1987. Due to this size and population of New Zealand the same system is used across all of the country. Number plates are usually issued by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
There are no cars in Antarctica, but there is a lot of machinery, tractors and AWDs.
In some countries, people can pay extra and get "vanity plates": license plates with a custom number (character set). For example, a vanity license plate might read "MY TOY". Generally vanity plates are not allowed to have profane, offensive or obscene messages on them, and of course they must also be unique. (DMVs of states have sometimes received complaints of offensive vanity plates.)
Many countries allow licensed amateur radio operators to obtain license plates with their call signs printed on them, allowing public service officials controlling access to disaster areas to immediately recognize and allow operators into the areas, facilitating their provision of crucial emergency communications. Some U.S. states charge lower fees for ham radio plates than for vanity plates.
In the U.S., most provinces of Canada, and Australia, vehicle owners may also pay extra for specialty plates: with these, the sequence of letters and numbers is chosen by the licensing agency – as with regular plates – but the owners select a plate design that is different from the normal license plate. Fees for specialty plates are usually channeled to a specific charity or organization. For example, California has issued the "Yosemite plate" and "whale tail plate," both aimed at conservation efforts in the respective domains. Some jurisdictions allow for these special plates to also be vanity plates, usually for an additional fee on top of the cost of the plate.
In some Australian states, it is possible to purchase "personalized plates", where an individual can choose the color, design, and sometimes even the shape and size of the plate, as well as the displayed text. For example, the government of the state of Queensland offers a wide range of possibilities for customization. Another style of plate that is common in some states of Australia is "Euro Plates", which are the same size as European plates (rather than the narrower taller Australian plates) to fit on the numberplate holders in European cars.
The "personal plate" industry in the United Kingdom is huge, with a large number of private dealers acting as agents for DVLA issues as well as holding their own or communal stock. The official term for what is often incorrectly called a "personal", "personalized" or "private" plate is a "cherished mark", as the alphanumeric code on the plate is the "index mark" — that is, the "mark" assigned to the vehicle on the central registry or "index". UK registrations or indexes cannot be owned outright by individuals, even though they may appear to have been purchased. They are issued by Government agencies and can be recalled or canceled at any time if misuse is suspected.
The main difference regarding "personal plates" between the UK and many other countries, is that drivers are not able to make, or request, their own. What is being traded is coincidences in the existing numbering system where the numbers and letters appear to spell something. For example, M15 ERY looks like MISERY or J4 MES looks similar to JAMES. Often, illegal fonts, digit-spacings or colored screw heads are used to enhance the appearance of the "word". UK legislation can require a fine of up to £1000 per offense in the case of an illegally-altered registration index mark.
Some jurisdictions issue temporary licence plates made of security paper or even printed on plain paper for newly purchased vehicles, for drivers waiting for plates in the mail, or other registration issues. A common length of time to have temporary plates is 30 days, although Ontario offers 10-day permits, and some U.S. states allow temporary tags to be effective for up to 90 days. Temporary licence plates are usually taped to the inside of the rear windshield, while some states require it to be in the front windshield. Expiration dates are usually hand written by regulatory employees or dealership sales personnel, but, due to easy alteration of hand written dates, some states now digitally print the date on the tag. If a driver continues to drive after the permit expires the vehicle can face impounding as an unplated vehicle.
There also exist novelty license plates often sold in gift or novelty shops. Similar to vanity plates, these novelties are printed with an individual's name or other words or phrases, but unlike vanity plates they are not intended for legal identification of an automobile. They can be displayed in the rear window, for example, or on the front of vehicles registered in jurisdictions that only require a valid plate on the rear of the vehicle.
Novelty license plates are usually installed by motorists or automobile dealerships. While automobile dealerships may install such plates for promoting their business, motorists may install novelty license plates to express their brand preference or an affiliation with a group, state, country, athletic team, hobby, art, or custom.
Antique auto collectors may use novelty replicas of period license plates to give their show cars a dated look, or import vehicle owners may use a novelty replica of a foreign plate to give it a foreign image. Some states allow year of manufacture registrations where an original, official plate expiring on the model year of an antique car is revalidated. Wisconsin, for instance, permits the use of year-of-manufacture plates if the state-issued plates are also carried somewhere within the vehicle. California also allows the Year-of-manufacture plates.
Today, plates are commonly attached with screws that mount into threaded fittings on the vehicle but originally nut-and-bolt combinations were needed to fasten the plate to a bracket, which led to the use of varied licence plate ornaments, accessories and attachments. The most common of these include fastening bolts with ornamental heads in a myriad of styles; these are generally legal everywhere providing the plate itself is not obscured. Those bolts faced with a colored glass or plastic reflector are termed license plate jewels. Traditionally the front plate would be fastened by an amber or green jewel and the rear by a red jewel, but other colors have become available over the decades including blue, clear and, most recently, purple.
The manufacture and use of license plate toppers - attachments and accessories mounted atop plates, often as advertising premiums - has diminished because of the design of modern vehicle bodies that incorporate recessed plate mountings. But older vehicles will usually have room for such attachments that may mention vehicle dealerships, tourist attractions and petroleum companies. Some of these commercial toppers also incorporate one or more reflectors or a safety-related message. Large stand-alone glass or plastic reflectors or cataphotes - some imprinted with an advertising message - are still common plate toppers whenever registration-plate brackets are able to accommodate them.
On the international level the license plates of different countries are distinguished by a supplementary license plate country code. This country designator is displayed in bold block uppercase on a small white oval plate or sticker on the rear of the vehicle near the number plate.
The allocation of codes is maintained by the United Nations as the Distinguishing Signs of Vehicles in International Traffic, being authorized by the UN's Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) and Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968). Many, but far from all, vehicle codes created since the adoption of ISO 3166 coincide with either the ISO two or three letter codes.
In Canada, Mexico and the United States, where the international oval is not used on vehicles from neighboring countries, putting one on a car is a matter of personal choice. This has given rise to a tourist-driven industry of imitation international code stickers. For example, the island of Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts has MV, while the Outer Banks region of North Carolina uses OBX. Long Beach Island, NJ uses "LBI," with the letter "I" substituted with an illustration of the island's lighthouse. The city of Key West, Florida, uses KW as part of its Conch Republic 'rebellion' from the U.S. Stickers of this sort are usually visibly different from any real international code sticker, but some places sell what could appear to be real stickers, touting that the abbreviation refers to their venue.
In the United Kingdom, imitation international codes are sometimes seen for the various parts of the country. For example, in Scotland, oval stickers with "Ecosse" or "Alba" (Scotland in French and Gaelic respectively) are occasionally seen. In Wales, drivers commonly display "CYM" to indicate Cymru (Wales).
In the Czech Republic, in large cities (notably Prague and Brno), these imitation international codes are usually used to show the district inside the city where the driver resides (e.g. DE for Dejvice).
There are also YNP ovals, which means for Yellowstone/Yosemite National Park.
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