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Vanity plates

Posted: October 13, 2011 5:41 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Years ago, when non-traditional license plates were first authorized in South Carolina, they were called “vanity plates” because many people who bought them put their initials on them. Since then, the specialty plate trend has grown to the point that the Palmetto State has more than 300 different varieties, ranging from NASCAR fans to Boykin Spaniel owners to Jimmy Buffett mavens. Law enforcement officers are finally starting to say enough is enough, the problem being that the plethora of plates is aborting the original mission of having them: to identify cars.

Rep. Michael Pitts of Laurens County is sponsoring legislation that would raise the number of plates to 700, but at the same time he’s agreeing with the fact that the abundance of different designs is making it tough on cops. On this one, we’re going to side with the cops … and with common sense. Certainly there’s no great harm in showing loyalty to one’s cause, whether it’s an alma mater or a dog or a musician. But the administrative headache has to be severe for the DOT, and the entire cache of having a “vanity plate” has lost a bit of its luster when there are tens of thousands of cars driving around in South Carolina sporting such advertisements.

We don’t see anything wrong with going back to the old way of doing things, with a standard plate that is easily identifiable. Folks who want to advertise a viewpoint can use bumper stickers or those little magnetic signs that adhere to the sides or backs of cars. That would ease identification problems for police, save the state a lot of headaches and still allow people to announce to the world the things they believe in.

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