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I Hate That My State Requires a Front License Plate

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author photo by Eric Brandt September 2018

There are very few things I dislike about living in the great state of Wisconsin. One is the winters that are approximately six months long, and another is the fact that America's Dairyland is one of the 31 states in the U.S. that requires a front license plate. This is a controversial topic, and it's one that Doug DeMuro is wrong about, as I will explain to him now as he edits this article.

There are some obvious pros and cons that have been hashed out in the great front license plate debate. The clear pro is greater visibility for law enforcement, and the clear con is that it can make your car look stupid. I drove a Ford Focus ST for a couple years in Wisconsin without a front license plate because I'm such a rebellious outlaw -- but I had the best excuse for not having one.

When I bought the car, it didn't have a front license plate bracket on it. Even if I wanted to put on a front plate, it wasn't possible. I was very okay with this. The salesman who sold me the car, however, told me there's a part you can get from Ford specifically for mounting a license plate on the Focus ST's gaping maw of a grille. He told me he would order it and send it to me in the mail. To this day, about a year after I sold the car, I am still waiting for that salesman to send me that bracket. I only had to tell this story to one police officer in the time that I had that car.

Anyway, back to how right I am about front license plates. I found this study about front license plates from 2012 conducted by Texas A&M. If you're really interested in the hard data on this issue, check out the study for yourself. What I got out of this study is that the main reason states want to infringe on your freedom by requiring a front plate is so they can enforce tolls. Obviously having a front plate doubles the number of plates on the car, but apparently, they're easier for cameras to read during the day due to sun glare distorting rear plates.

So requiring a front plate might have safety benefits, but it also has the-government-stealing-your-money benefits. Not only does a plate on the front of your car look awkward, but it also makes it easier for law enforcement to send you tickets in the mail. Knowing what I know now about enforcing tolls makes it even more confusing to me as to why Wisconsin requires front plates. Wisconsin doesn't have toll roads -- and whenever I'm driving in a state with tolls, I'm offended by the practice of being charged for using a road that's theoretically already paid for with public funds.

But the main reason I hate that my state requires a front license plate is because of how bad they look. If it's a boring car like my Honda Odyssey, I don't mind having a front plate on it at all. Even for more sporty, fun cars, I don't mind a front plate so much when there's a clear spot for it designed into the car. It's just when a front plate looks like a tacked-on afterthought that ruins the look of a car that bothers me.

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I Hate That My State Requires a Front License Plate - Autotrader