All about front license plates in the United States
Not all states in the United States require a front license plate.
Listed below are all states where a front license plate is required by law: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Almost all of the states that require a front license plate are in the north (except for Hawaii and Texas). Conversely, it turns out that the states that do not require a front license plate are mostly in the southern and eastern United States.
These 20 states do not require a front license plate by law: Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
All states in the U.S. are required to have at least a rear license plate, and some states (a smaller number, as we found out above) require a rear license plate only.
Read more about why some car owners dislike front license plates so much
In some states, motorists do not really like this law, especially people who own nice sports cars. In their opinion, the front license plate makes their car less attractive, in other words, it just makes the front of the car ugly.
And indeed, some cars are originally designed so that there is not even a place for the license plate in the front. After all, according to some car designers and car enthusiasts, their favorite car is like a work of art, and you can not hang a front license plate on a work of art.
But it is not just about beauty. On some sports cars, such license plates can even interfere with performance. That is because the front plate covers the turbo cleaner at the front end, which causes less cold air to flow into the turbocharger, and that is exactly what reduces performance.
Although the law is not popular among motorists, there are still more states that require a front license plate than those that do not.
About the penalties that can follow violation of the dual license plate law
In states where a front license plate is required, police closely monitor vehicles and stop violators. Sometimes a fine is issued, and sometimes the driver is only given a verbal warning. And the fines for such violations can range from $100 to $200.
If you drive without a front license plate, there is good news for you, because fines such as for trespassing rarely affect your auto insurance rates.
In some states, cars parked on the street without a visible license plate can be fined by the parking department. Such fines can be as low as $20 or $30.
About the ways car owners can avoid putting a front license plate on their car
Sometimes drivers put the license plate in the front window of the car, thus trying to get around the law on license plates. Sometimes they even put it on the floor or in the glove box. But for the most part, in states that have a front license plate law, the sign must be placed in a highly visible place, not inside the car. But some states have exceptions that apply to cars that do not have room for a front license plate. For example, Washington State has such an exemption, but to get one, you have to write to the patrol and ask for it.
For sports cars and luxury car enthusiasts, there is a way out in the form of a license plate bracket. Some brackets mount in place of the front towing hook, and this complies with the front license plate mounting law.
There are also brackets that hide the front license plate under the car, and you can stick it out as needed when you need to make it visible. But be careful with these brackets in the states where you have to have two license plates, because you can forget to pull out the front license plate before you start driving and get in trouble with the police.
About license plates and finances
Lawmakers in some states oppose front license plates. They say it costs more to produce and distribute them than they are worth. However, other lawmakers say the fines for not having license plates make them pay for themselves in the end. Denver, for example, has a toll road that gets 30 percent of its revenue from scanning front license plates.
An airport in Arizona bills for parking with automatic scanning and plate recognition. But if the plate is only the back one, and it is dirty or hard to recognize because of glare, then employees have to determine the cost themselves using the manual method. This wastes a lot of extra time and a lot of extra pay for the workers.
It would be possible to use more modern and accurate technology to recognize rear license plates, instead of introducing a two license plate law. But that's more complicated and more expensive. Still, having two plates helps law enforcement more accurately recognize license plates, and accuracy is a bonus on toll roads.
About front license plates and new technology
Technology in auto manufacturing advances by leaps and bounds every year. It is becoming more and more comfortable and safer in the car. When it comes to safety, some luxury cars are already equipped with 360-degree cameras, which are linked to a satellite and tell the driver what is around him in real time. Newer standard-class cars also get new safety features but they can be disrupted by the front license plate.
For example, there is a traffic assistance system and automatic braking, and this adaptive cruise control just might be disrupted by the front license plate.
The sensors for this cruise control accurately read the traffic situation, but because of the front license plate, the technology's reading of the environment may be inaccurate, and this makes the new safety technology useless.
Many automakers ignore this problem and continue to produce cars without a place for the front license plate.
But it is worth mentioning that some cars have such sensors located higher up, which leaves room for the front license plate and does not interfere with new safety technologies.
About the law and dealing with violators
According to police, having two license plates makes it easier to find stolen vehicles. License plate recognition systems are used by police to identify stolen vehicles and vehicles whose owners have outstanding violations or arrest warrants. Police use the technology by taking pictures of passing cars with a high-speed camera.
Police identify license plates and check them against a "hot list". License plate recognition systems can read 10,000 license plates in about eight hours. If you remove the front license plates and just leave the back ones, that number is cut in half.
Also, if a crime is committed, a random passerby has a better chance of seeing and remembering the license plate if it is on the front. When there is only a rear license plate, it is more difficult for witnesses to correctly identify the license plate, especially in a stressful emergency situation.
The laws regarding both license plates are quite simple. The license plates must be valid and must be clearly visible. They must be properly mounted on the vehicle in a designated location. All numbers and letters on the plate must be fully visible and legible. In bad weather and muddy conditions, license plates should be wiped down so they are visible. Drivers are not allowed to modify their license plates in any way, they cannot be trimmed or painted, they must remain as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) sent them. Car dealers are not allowed to distribute passenger cars with one license plate in states that require two plates.
From time to time, license plate laws are hotly debated in government. In 2017, several states tried to introduce bills to change license plate requirements in states with two license plates. The laws were mostly aimed at historic cars that do not have enough room for a front license plate.
But for the most part, this debate goes nowhere, and the 2021 dual license plate law is in effect in most of the U.S., with most states not backing down from their current position.