In response to numerous citizen and motorist complaints received throughout the state, Louisiana State Police in coordination with local law enforcement agencies are beginning an aggressive enforcement effort to address obscured license tags. State law requires that vehicle license plates be clearly displayed. If the numbers or letters are obstructed in any way, the driver is subject to being ticketed, according to State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson.
Specifically the law requires that "permanent registration license plates assigned to a trailer, semitrailer, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle shall be securely attached to the rear of the vehicle and remain clearly visible and free from any foreign material." In addition to naturally occurring obscurements such as roadway dirt or mud, license plates must also remain free of any novelty frames or plate covers that hamper visibility and prevent the entire plate from being readable.
While tinted, blurred, or mirrored plate covers are an obvious obscurement, clear plate covers can also scratch, become yellowed, or get cloudy over time reducing visibility. Moreover, the built in reflectivity of license plates can be significantly diminished by covers preventing a clear view of the tag information during dark conditions. Drivers are also required by state law to ensure that license plates are well illuminated through the use of properly functioning white license plate lights.
"The use of aftermarket covers for license tags has increased considerably in Louisiana. Most drivers are probably unaware that by using such covers or decorative lights they are probably in violation of the law. We are urging them to remove the aftermarket products now before being cited," Edmonson said.
According to Edmonson this is a public safety issue. "It is imperative that the numbers or letters on the tag be visible and readable. When they are obscured it impairs accurate reporting by citizens who are attempting to provide police with information on reckless or impaired drivers, motor vehicle crashes, and vehicles involved in criminal acts."
In addition to the countless criminal investigations resolved across the state from information retrieved from license plates, law enforcement officers routinely depend on registration information obtained from license plates while conducting traffic stops. The ability of law enforcement personnel to clearly discern and retrieve license plate information including stolen vehicle and fugitive suspect notification often times can mean the difference between a life and death encounter.
"Law enforcement professionals work tirelessly every day investigating criminal acts and conducting traffic stops across the state to ensure public safety," Edmonson said. "While increasingly sophisticated investigative tools are deployed each day, the simple act of being able to clearly read and report a vehicle's license plate is often the first step to removing dangerous individuals from our communities."
Troopers and local law enforcement agencies statewide are partnering to increase public knowledge on Louisiana's license plate law and will be taking appropriate enforcement actions when obvious license plate obscurements are observed.
For more information regarding specific enforcement activities and safety campaigns in your area, please contact your local LSP Public Information Officer. www.lsp.org/public.html