SC should ditch specialty license plates

I was struck particularly by this passage in the AP story about specialty license plates in South Carolina:

There are 370 plates currently issued in South Carolina, and a bill in the Legislature next year could nearly double that to more than 700. While the proliferation may be well intentioned, law enforcement officers and the head of South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles say the increased number of options make the plates hard for law officers to decipher…

Say what? MORE vanity plates? There’s not much in this world that South Carolina needs less.

And of COURSE they hamper law enforcement. Always have. Aside from giving us something perfectly stupid to have arguments about in the Legislature (allow this plate, not allow that one?).

Yet another of my pet peeves, and someone is, predictably, trying to make it twice as bad. And guess who it is — yep, Michael Pitts, the representative who suggested that South Carolina abandon the Yankee dollar as currency and replace it with gold and silver. That guy.

Folks, license plates distributed by the state are about identifying your vehicle for law enforcement purposes, and showing that you’ve paid your taxes. Period. They should perform those functions as plainly as possible, with a minimum of Mickey Mouse.

You want to express yourself, buy a bumper sticker. Or a sketchpad. Or start a blog. Or post a video on YouTube. Twitter and Facebook are freely available. Anything you choose. But don’t ask the state of South Carolina to do it for you.

We should be ditching specialty plates altogether, not adding new ones.

25 thoughts on “SC should ditch specialty license plates

  1. Steven Davis

    I agree, 3 plates total. Regular plates, vanity plates on the regular plate background and Medal of Honor plates on the regular background. Plates should be two colors, a background color and a letter/number color.

  2. bud

    I think we’ve had this discussion before and I completely agree. Not sure why the State has to have program that probably doesn’t bring in much money but is guaranteed to be controversial. Let’s go back to the 1960s when we had plain license plates. Perhaps use the same colors that are on the state flag.

  3. Herb Brasher

    And, according to law enforcement, put the plates back on the front of the car as well, like they were back into the late 60s, I’m told.

    What I can’t figure out are the license plate holders that cover up the state the car is from. I guess they can trace the state anyway, but it looks confusing to me. Besides, it always wrecks our game traveling of who can spot the most number of plates from different states first.

  4. Burl Burlingame

    My parents once bought me personalized license plates that read BURL. My response: “Gee … thanks.” I used them for a year or so and then lied that I had to get new plates, plates that were completely anonymous.

  5. Tim

    I agree. They are absurd. In fact, I feel that I should be paid to put one on my car, not the other way around, since its basically advertising. Why not a “McDonalds” license?

  6. Mark Stewart

    Here’s your chance to push for the indigo blue field.

    The plate should simply be the state flag – with light grey numbers/letters and a downsized crescent moon and cabbage palm.

    Nothing else onboard; no lame slogans, no world wide web addresses. A small “South Carolina” if required by the feds.

    I’d be happy just to abolish the commission / board / legislature plates that signify nothing, yet ably convey the impression that the driver is open to petty corruption and influencing. Those honorariums have no place in civil society.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    [like] what Mark said

    Remember when states had set colors, so you saw a blue and gold plate, it was PA, green and white = VT ?

  8. Doug Ross

    Let’s see how difficult it will be to change this policy. Perfect example of how the government “works”. There will be committees, interest groups, debates, bureaucratic nonsense over the colors, size, etc. And then policies written and revised for the DMV.

    Netflix abandoned a whole new strategy (qwikster) in a matter of two weeks.

    Here’s where we need the ability for the governor to make the vanity plates go away with a single executive order.

  9. Brad

    Doug, you (and our governor) still don’t get it about how the government is, and is SUPPOSED TO BE, different from the private sector. And that’s why you constantly, erroneously, assert that there is therefore something WRONG with government.

    The Netflix decision was so easily reversed because it was a bad policy based in the stubborn foolishness of ONE man. All he had to do was back down, which he did.

    You see, when we started this country, we decided we didn’t want everything in the hands of one man. We had that with King George III, and didn’t like it. Consequently, we went a bit overboard, especially in SC, where we won’t even let the governor run the EXECUTIVE branch, in spite of being the putative chief executive.

    But government in this country, even when it works correctly, is full of checks and balances, and other mechanisms that slow down decisions until everyone has had a chance to have their say and input.

    If I were king of South Carolina, you’d see how efficiently government could work. In fact, as an American, you might get a little creeped out by how efficiently it could work (this is why some people are creeped out that the president can now write a man’s name on a list and have him killed). You would immediately see specialty plates banned.

    SC license plates would be a field of Indigo blue with white lettering, and perhaps a small Palmetto tree between the first three and last three characters. Period. They’d also have the county name, or have the county built into the numbering code.

    That’s if I were king. If you’d like me to be king, tell your legislator, and I’ll sit by the phone awaiting the call. Of course, if you want someone else to be king, you don’t have my vote.

  10. Steven Davis

    I don’t want you to be king, since you have the training… I might let you be the royal scribe.

  11. Mark Stewart

    Putting county names on plates is so provincial – why call out the out of towners?

    That’s a very different motive from identifying a state on the plate.

  12. Doug Ross


    Okay, it’s not wrong, just massively inefficient and wasteful. Which is why the government should do as little as possible.

  13. bud

    Except for Doug’s little dig at the compexity of government Brad has managed to get everyone to agree on a topic. Remarkable achievment.

  14. Brad

    It’s eerie…

    Mark, the thing about the counties is it’s just one more bit of ready information to facilitate the work of law enforcement. Probably archaic, since all they have to do now is run the number and get full info, but in a pinch, it might help. Couldn’t hurt.

    I used to like it, when I lived in Tennessee, and even after. I’d see somebody get out of a car with a Madison County plate (where I used to live), and strike up a conversation: “Hey, do you know…?” Not a big deal, of course.

    Oh, and as you say, it would identify the out-of-towners, so we could shun them. (This is where some people would insert a smiley face.)

  15. bud

    Rather than put the county name down why not just make it a part of tag number. A Richland County plate would be numbered something like this: 40 ABCD. For Lexington: 32 EFGH. That way law enforcement would be able to quickly identify the county without making it so obvious. As for the design, I’d make it plain, no symbols, trees, crescents or anything else. And we could place the South Carolina title in a place that could not be blocked by license plate holders.

  16. Brad

    Bud, that’s what they did in Tennessee back when I lived there. In the 70s, we used to be number 7 (it was assigned by population order). Then, after the 1980 census, we dropped to… I forget… 11, or 14, or something. It was a crushing blow.

    They later changed it to including the county name as text. Which isn’t as much fun. Knowing the numbers made you feel like you were a real Tennessean, an insider, the possessor of special knowledge.

  17. Mark Stewart

    Speed traps and profiling, that’s what comes to mind for me. It always helps to know who’s NOT a potential voter.

    Putting the county name, or number, on the plate has always seemed to be more about identifying “the other” than it has been about being an affable conversation starter. That’s what bumper stickers are for…

  18. Brad

    When I see people with bumper stickers, though, I just want to walk up and slap them. Probably not a normal reaction, I’ll admit…

    Here’s another one of those places where someone else would use a smiley face…

  19. Ralph Hightower

    I agree that we have way too many license plates. But having plates to fund students from South Carolina to attend out of state colleges? Really? Auburn, Georgia Tech, Ohio State (must be a new plate), Univerity of Florida, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina. Okay, I can understand supporting $$$ going to students attending the US Naval Academy or West Point.

  20. Steven Davis

    “When I see people with bumper stickers, though, I just want to walk up and slap them. Probably not a normal reaction, I’ll admit…”

    All bumper stickers or just the Obama stickers?

  21. Kathryn Fenner

    Nice, Doug!

    Wag more, bark less.

    How about all the civil libertarians like Whoopi and Jon Stewart defending Hank Jr.’s “free speech rights”? Once again, people, it’s government that cannot infringe on your freedom of speech. Private parties can do as they wish.

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