Another license plate, another bad idea

Here we go again. I just got this release from S.C. DMV:

July 21, 2008

Blythewood, SC – The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) announced today the availability of a new specialty license plate.
    The Georgia Tech Foundation license plate is now available in SCDMV offices across the state. The fee for the Georgia Tech Foundation license plate is $70 every two years in addition to the regular motor vehicle registration fee. The plate is available to the general public and has no special requirements for obtaining the plates.   
    A portion of the fees collected for the Georgia Tech Foundation plate will be used for scholarships to Georgia Tech for students from South Carolina.
     To view images of all the specialty license plates currently available, visit the SCDMV Web site at

We had another op-ed piece in today’s paper on the interminable debate over whether South Carolina should issue "I Believe" plates. I thought Kevin and Butch did pretty well with what their client gave themHumanists to work with. Gotta hand it to them, the "Secular Humanists of the Low Country" plate was a new one on me.

And it makes a certain kind of sense for the state to make "I Believe" plates if it’s going to make "In Reason We Trust" plates, and it should make those if it’s going to make, oh, I don’t know… "Surfrider Foundation" plates. (By the way, I am not making any of these up. You can look at all of them here.)

But as I’ve said before here, and as we’ve said editorially in the paper, we shouldn’t be making any of these specialty plates, especially not the ones that exist to raise money for some cause or other. I’m not going to repeat all the arguments. I set them out back here. But I will say this much again:

The purpose of a license plate is essentially a law enforcement one — they should be quickly identifiable as SC plates, which is a standard that all these special vanity plates blow out of the water.

With all these different plates already, how a cop is supposed to tell whether he’s looking at an SC plate or not at a glance is beyond me…

21 thoughts on “Another license plate, another bad idea

  1. just saying

    “Kevin and Butch did pretty well”
    Didn’t they completely dodge the fact that we aren’t getting this religious license plate through the regular channels that all other groups have to go through?
    (Can we get “Dumbest Legislature in the U.S.” plates made?)

  2. Mark

    Brad, as a former police officer from another state, I can tell you that helping law enforcement is the last thing South Carolina does.
    First, most states recognized the importance of issuing two plates, (front & rear) so that law enforcement on patrol can better review the tags while on patrol. It is also harder to hide an unregistered or stolen car when there are supposed to be two tags on the car. Many of my best traffic stops which led to arrests of crimes in action all happened because of a simple two-plate law and I found a car driving with only one.
    Second, as you pointed out, plates need to be readily visible at great distances and speeds. Having too many different styles or colors just makes it that much tougher to patrol. If you look at other states that have multiple, optional purchase “fan” plates, the intial state design stays the same while only a team or organization logo is emblossed. This keeps the plates neutral for the police and still appealing for the fans/members who want to spend their money.
    Altough I support the idea of the government raising revenue on choice decisions by its populus, I have to think that South Carolina’s attempt is a sheer disaster and once again placates to just a few people in a back room.
    Help a cop today and just say “no” to these plates.

  3. Robert

    I think that we need to do one of 2 things in SC: Either let anyone offer up any specialty tag they want or else just go to a plain white plate that says South Carolina, has the vehicle’s VIN # and an expiration sticker, as unless I’m wrong the only 2 purposes of the plate are to identify the vehicle and show that its owner/lessee has paid the appropriate taxes due. BTW just saying, no we can’t get the dumbest legislature plates, because Virginia’s GA makes ours look modern and progressive. Compare the Blowfish to the Yankees and you might get the idea of why I couldn’t get out of that Sh*thole with front and back license plates quick enough. Mark, I will have to defer to you on law enforcement, but there is no question confusion can’t help.

  4. James D McCallister

    Robert, I am shocked and disheartened to hear of a worse state legislature than SC’s. Time to rewrite the record book.
    Between the confederate flag, Miss Teen USA, Gov. Sanford’s stumbling, bumbling, train-of-thought-wreck Sunday morning appearance, Lee Muller’s blog postings, and now the official gubmint christian ID plate…we must surely look provincial and a bit behind the curve here in SC. Nothing new, I suppose.
    It’s not enough to make me forget all that I love about my home, but, yikes, y’all…

  5. Susanna K.

    That license plate should be perfect for the folks here in Aiken County. Most of them already seem to think they live in Georgia, anyway.

  6. Bubba Fetner

    Get over it ! If an individual can pay for a plate special to him/her more power to them. all the plates have South Carolina clearly printed on the bottom of the plate.
    this is about plate “You personally dissaprove of” .. that’s all. Kind of like being told what is acceptable on your property by those horrible neighborhood associations.
    I’ve got a SCV plate ! I bet you hate that one! Get a life. Go after handicap parking abuse and do something usefull !

  7. Sebastian

    What exactly is wrong with a license plate that supports the Surfrider Foundation? Do some research. Surfrider is the larges coastal environmental group in the country. With over 60 chapters in the US including two in SC. Next time you take a trip to the beach you’ll have SF to thank for clean and accessible beaches for you and everyone else to enjoy. Or next time that a hurricane hits your coast, be glad that SF has conserved the dunes that keep the water and sand off of the roads.

  8. Lee Muller

    This is just another manifestation of Brad Warthen’s yen to tell other people how to live. If he doesn’t want a custom license plate, then, no one else needs one.

  9. bud

    A simple plate with an outline of the state plus the state name in large letters should be sufficient. Plenty of places manufacture plates for the front of vehicles. If someone wants to promote their school, religion, cause or anything else they could do it there. I’m with Brad on this one.

  10. Patricia

    The problem arises in ability of the Christian “I Believe” tag to contain an image of a cross. From what I understand you cannot get an “I believe” tag with, say, the Star of David or another religious symbol.
    It has to be fair among all of SC believers or not at all.

  11. Lee Muller

    According to DOT, no one has asked for a plate with a Star of David or Muslim crescent. Besides, most people think the gorget above the palmetto tree IS a crescent.

  12. patricia

    The DOT did not ask for the “I believe” tag either. It was submitted by the legislature and passed by the legislature. No citizen or christian group asked for this tag.
    The DMV does not allow any slogans so “I believe” cannot be granted to anyone by the DMV, only the legislature can approve a tag with a slogan.

  13. click

    Did “Kevin and Butch” bill the DMV by the hour for the “op-ed piece”?
    How much of the citizens’ money will be going to the firm of Nelson Mullins?
    How much was the retainer?
    Are “Kevin and Butch” working pro bono?
    Gimme a little reportage, Brad.

  14. Lee Muller

    The article in The State said no group submitted a request for the other religious examples used in the lawsuit, so it looks like the plaintiffs have no standing to bring such a lawsuit. You cannot sue for damages that might have occurred, IF you had theoretically been a Jew, or warlock, or whatever.

  15. Law Enforcement Helper Bee

    Finding no category to the right on:
    ~Justice for the Little People
    ~Official Apologies
    ~Henry McMaster
    I hereby, thusly, offer, an
    ***Official Apology***
    I officially apologize for a comment re: Henry McMaster is a puppet of Donnie Myers. That statement was based on misinformation [Donnie Myers’ trademark].

  16. p.m.

    Seems like a freedom-of-speech issue more than a church-state issue.
    But, for once in a blue moon, I agree with Mr. Warthen. If there’s an “In Reason We Trust” plate, an “I Believe” plate balances the ledger.
    Why don’t we worry about fixing one of the worst public education systems in the country instead? I’d like for our drivers to be able to read the plates before they consider their legal nuances.

  17. Ralph Hightower

    The GA Tech license plate is a damned dumb idea!
    Why the heck is South Carolina collecting money to send to a public funded university of another state?
    I just went to Georgia MVD division. They have tags for Auburn, Clemson, and Florida fans; those plates don’t send money out of state. Georgia does have some plates with ad valorem tax.
    GA has 146 different tags.

  18. Steve Gordy

    I’m with the law enforcement people. Why not a single plate design (white letters on an indigo blue background would do nicely), front and back plates required. If you want to send a message, get a bumper sticker.

  19. Open Mind

    Mr. Warthen,
    I have to disagree with this blog post, and especially your disrespect for the Surfrider Foundation. First, let it be known the State of Florida also issues these vanity plates, MANY of them. The purpose solely is to help raise funds for deserving organizations who serve a purpose. In today’s economy, how can you view this as a negative? “The purpose of a license plate is essentially a law enforcement one — they should be quickly identifiable”… What about those of us who have license plate holders or plastic shields? In Florida, and other states, we use one plate on the rear. Is law enforcement confused when they see a Bahamas plate on the front and a “We Believe” plate on the back??? Is an out-of-state plate a reason to pull someone over? They can surely identify your car when they have your license and registration in hand. Your conformist views humor us. Support the prisoners who make ‘plain plates’ and not an organization committed to preserving natural living and non-living diversity and ecological integrity of the coastal environment? You should check to see if SC still has ‘MORON’ available for your personalized plates.

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