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Special License Plates for Drunk Drivers

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Ohio license plate for DUI offenders

Ohio license plate for DUI offenders. Photo courtesy of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.

A Nevada man is calling on his state to start issuing special, different-looking license plates to drunk drivers, as Ohio has been doing for years. As Michael Lopardi reports for, Las Vegas resident Brian Longe, formerly of Ohio, thinks it would be a good idea:

‘It would make people think,’ said Longe. ‘It would be the repercussions. If I drive intoxicated, then I have to suffer with these plates for awhile.’

Ohio issues special yellow license plates with red letters and/or numbers to DUI offenders who are driving with restrictions or have limited driving privileges, Lopardi writes. Lindsey Bohrer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, told him that the plates are issued on a case-by-case basis, depending on a judge’s order.

That state typically provides the license plates to those drivers with two DUI convictions within a six-year period, or to those who have a high blood alcohol content on a first offense, Lopardi writes. Those who are convicted can go back to using regular plates when the restrictions expire.

In Nevada, police made 14,809 DUI arrests in 2012, he reports, however lawmakers in that state have not introduced any bills to create similar license plates going back to 1999, according to Kevin Malone, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

Lopardi writes that as of 2012, such states as Georgia and Minnesota use special plate numbers to identify drunk-driving offenders. The National Conference of State Legislatures says on its website that as of July 2012, Georgia issues plates with a special series of numbers or letters in limited circumstances; Minnesota provides plates with a special series of numbers in certain cases; and Ohio issues red and yellow plates, a policy that began in 2004.

Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, an advocacy group, told Lopardi that a similar program was discussed about 10 years ago, but did not become a law. She said she thinks ignition interlock devices and individual driver assessments are more effective.

“I don’t know that specialized plates — whether you want to call them zebra plates, whiskey plates, party plates, whatever the term might be — is going to actually save lives and that is what we’re interested in,” said Heverly. This blog reported last December that the National Transportation Safety Board has called for authorities to require all first-offender DUI drivers to have the interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Longe, however, thinks the plates would help prevent people from driving while drunk. “I really think it would make them think twice about driving intoxicated,” said Longe.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing mentions special plates as one of dozens of approaches to prevent drunk driving. But no studies are cited showing how effective the special plates could be.


One Response to “Special License Plates for Drunk Drivers”


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