License plates at forefront of controversy

Sunday, June 17, 2018 10:05 PM

I’ve been wondering why many Colorado vehicles don’t have front license plates? Doesn’t the law say Colorado drivers need both? Maybe these people want to be pulled over for roadside dancing lessons at DUI checkpoints. Maybe they want to be New Mexicans. – Bill Koons

If you really wanted to be a New Mexican, you could not only ditch your front plate but also your car insurance.

Wait, that wasn’t nice.

At 20.8 percent, New Mexico’s uninsured motorist rate isn’t the worst in the nation.

That dubious distinction belongs to Florida, with 26.7 percent uninsured, followed by Mississippi at 23.7 percent.

Interestingly, Florida and Mississippi also don’t require front plates, along with 16 other states, most of which are located below the Mason-Dixon Line for some odd reason.

Not that there’s any correlation between lack of forward plates and lack of insurance. That would be an affront to back-plate states.

People have strong opinions about one or two plates.

Dual-platers point to increased visibility, safety and identification of scofflaws.

Lone-platers cite expense and taxation, along with the assertion that their ride looks less sleek with a front plate. Seriously.

Action Line sides with a 2012 Texas A&M Transportation Institute study that chides rear-plate states for backward thinking.

“Interestingly, these (license plate) discussions are unique to North America since other countries require two plates,” the study pointedly points out.

There’s nothing quite like American Exceptionalism, eh?

In any case, if you think Colorado requires tags fore and aft, UR RITE is the answer in the form of a vanity plate.

Of course, you saw that one coming and going.

Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, its Legislature earlier this year had a bill on its plate mandating dual licenses.

Representatives in the Land of Enchantment decisively defeated the measure 27-38.

Thus, “Enchantment” is a word meaning “No Front Plates.”

HHHWhile driving around Durango, I’ve noticed a fair number of rear license plates that are obstructed by frames (mainly from auto dealerships) or bike racks. Isn’t that illegal? Sign me, Curious Georgette

If bike racks were illegal, Durango would be a penal colony.

An overpriced but physically fit gulag where inmates wear Lycra jumpsuits, but that’s another matter.

Obstructing plates is definitely illegal, and Colorado’s laws don’t take poetic license.

Plates must be “clearly visible, maintained free from foreign materials and clearly legible,” the law reads.

So you might “rack” up some tickets if bikes block the green-and-white mountain silhouette on your bumper.

Likewise, you might get “tagged” if a frame covers your tags.

Maybe that’s why they call it a license plate “frame” – because it framed you for an obstructed-plate violation.

And dirt-road dually drivers take note. The dust and mud on your plate offers probable cause.

Not that the constabulary are looking for a reason to pull you over, but why provide any justification?

HHHLast week’s column about idiots flying drones over burning forests really lit a fire under one loyal reader who is a retired aviator.

The column pointed out conflicting state and federal laws as a reason for authorities’ reluctance to blast drones out of the sky with a shotgun.

“Stop the correctness! A drone collision with a tanker plane could bring the plane down, so the planes will stop fighting the fire. The issue is safety, not legality. Fight it in court after the fire is out if you like.”

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if your license plate holder says, “My Other Car Is Just As Crappy As This One.”