License plate

From Academic Kids

A license plate, licence plate, number plate or registration plate (often referred to simply as a plate, or colloquially tag) is a small metal or plastic plate attached to a motor vehicle for official identification purposes. On many vehicles, they appear in pairs, with one attached to the front and another attached to the rear, although certain jurisdictions and vehicle types only require one plate—usually the rear. The plate has a serial number on it which is the same on all plates attached to the vehicle, the purpose of which is to identify the vehicle uniquely from others on roads, usually within the same country. Having a current license plate change usually is evidence of a vehicle being licensed for use on a public highway, or of a tax having been paid in connection with the vehicle.

In some countries, such as in the United Kingdom, a vehicle usually only has one set of plates (known as number plates) following its initial sale as the information displayed on the plates is static from then on throughout the vehicle's life. In other countries, such as in the United States, plates (known as license plates) are required to be changed periodically (though, for cost-saving purposes, the recent tendency has been to simply replace a small decal on the plate's surface).

Plates usually are either directly fixed to a vehicle, or may be located in a plate frame which is itself fixed to the vehicle . Sometimes the plate frames contain advertisements inserted by the vehicle service centre or the dealership from which the vehicle was purchased. Vehicle owners can purchase customized and specialty frames to replace the original frames. In some U.S. states, such as New Jersey license plate frames are illegal. Usually plates are designed to conform to certain standards of clarity with regards to being read by the human eye in day or at night, or by electronic equipment.

Some drivers purchase smoke-colored or tinted covers that go over the license plate, usually to prevent such electronic equipment from scanning the license plate number. Although useful to those avoiding detection from police, these covers are not legal in all U.S. states and are looked down upon in others.

License plates have been around almost as long as automobiles. In the U.S., where each state oversees plates, New York state has required plates since 1901. Massachusetts was the first state to require government-issued plates, in 1903.

In most countries, license plates are issued by an agency of the national government, except in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Germany, and the United States, where they issued by provincial, territorial, or state governments.


US and Canada

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A sample standard-issue California license plate.
Main article: US and Canadian license plates

In the US and Canada, license plates are issued by each state or provincial government. In the U.S., some Native American tribes also have their own plates. The federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats.

The appearance of plates is frequently chosen to contain symbols, colors, or slogans associated with the issuing jurisdiction.


Main article: European license plates

In the European Union, number plates of a common format are issued throughout (albeit still optional in some member states). Nevertheless, individual member states use differing numbering schemes, and even colors (e.g. the United Kingdom and France have yellow plates at the rear; see British car number plates). The common design consists of a blue strip on the left of the plate. This blue strip has the E.U. motif (12 yellow stars), along with the country code of the member state in which the vehicle was registered. With this vehicles do not require international code stickers for traveling between member states.

People's Republic of China

Main article: Mainland Chinese licence plates
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Blue PRC licence plates of the 1992 standard (August 2004 image)

The People's Republic of China issues vehicles licence plates at its Vehicle Management Offices, under the administration of the Ministry of Public Security.

The current plates are of the 1992 standard, which consist of the one-character provincial abbreviation, a letter of the Latin alphabet, and five numbers or letters of the alphabet (e.g. Jing A-12345, for a vehicle in Beijing). The number order is produced at random; i.e. Jing A-12345 will not be issued before Jing A-12344. A computer handles the randomization. (A previous licence plate system, with a green background and the full name of the province in Chinese characters, actually had a sequential numbering order, and the numbering system was eventually beset with corruption).

Yellow plates are issued for large vehicles of Chinese nationality. Blue plates, the most common sort, are issued for vehicles of Chinese nationality, which are small or compact in size. Black plates are issued for vehicles belonging to foreigners and persons from Hong Kong and Macao. (Black licence plates are handed to vehicles of any size, as long as they are of foreign nationality.)


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Japanese License Plate (Schematic illustration)
Main article: Japanese license plates

License plates in Japan are either white with green text, or the reverse. The top line names the office at which the vehicle is registered, and includes a numeric code that indicates the class of vehicle. The bottom contains one symbol (typically a kana), and up to four digits.

Russian Federation

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Russian registration plate, as observed in 2004

In Russia, the plate format has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The current format uses a letter followed by 3 digits and two more letters. To improve legibility of the numbers for Russian cars abroad, only a small subset of Cyrillic characters that look like Latin characters are used. Finally, the region number (77 and 99 for Moscow, 78 for Saint-Petersburg) and letters "RUS" are included, as well as the national flag. There is a different format for trailers (4 digits and 2 letters).

Some regions (inside the Federation) are not required to have the flag on the licence plates.

Police forces have special numbers on blue colored plates. There are special series (usually numbers starting with A) reserved for government officials (for example, A 001 AA usually belongs to the governor of the region). These numbers have a larger flag instead of the region number.

Rich businessmen, prominent politicians and crime lords often use illegally acquired special licence plates (government or police) to get preferential treatment from the transport police and as a status symbol.

Federative Republic of Brazil

Brazil adopted its current system in 1990, which uses the form ABC 1234, with a dot between letters and numbers. A combination given to one vehicle cannot be transferred to another vehicle. Above the combination, there is a metallic band with the state abbreviation (SP = São Paulo, RJ = Rio de Janeiro, PR = Paraná, etc.) and the name of the municipality. This band can be changed by changing the seal (plastic or lead-made).

The size of the Brazilian licence plates is normally 380 x 130 mm, but plates can be made in the Japanese size or the European size. The Brazilian licence plates use colors to show their type, and front and rear plates use the same color: black on gray: Particular white on red: any kind of paid transportation (buses, cabs, etc.) red on white: driver's school (auto-escola in Brazil). black on white: official use (government, police department, fire department, federal, state or city-owned for public services). gray on black: collection (30-years vehicles or more with an excellent conservation and plus than 80% of originality. white on green: dealer-testing or in some cases, test-drive (most of test-drive cars use black on gray plates). white on blue: constructor-testing or diplomatic use (in this case, using CD 1234 or CC 1234).

The letters of the plate can describe its state of origin. Vehicles can be relocated from one state to another, but their plate's combination will show the origin.

AAA-0000 to BEZ-0000 = PR = PARANÁ; BFA-0000 to GKI-0000 = SP = SÃO PAULO; GKI-0000 to HOL-0000 = MG = MINAS GERAIS; and so on.

Vanity and specialty plates

See also: North American Vanity and specialty plates
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Idaho bluebird plate, one of more than 30 specialty plates in that state
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This Virginia vanity plate means Newark, New Jersey, the numbers are a Zip Code.

In some countries, people can pay extra and get vanity plates: licence plates with a custom number (character set). For example, a vanity license plate might read "MY TOY". Generally vanity plates are not allowed to have profane or obscene messages on them, and of course they must also be unique.

In the US and Canada, vehicle owners may also pay extra for specialty plates: with these, the sequence of letters and numbers is chosen by the licensing agency—as with regular plates—but the owners select a plate design that is different from the normal licence plate. Some jurisdictions allow for these special plates to also be vanity plates, usually for an additional fee on top of the cost of the plate.

Novelty licence plates

There also exist novelty licence plates, often sold in gift or novelty shops. Similar to vanity plates, these novelties are printed with an individual's name, but unlike vanity plates they are not intended for legal identification of an automobile. They can be displayed in the rear window, for example, or on the front of vehicles registered in jurisdictions that only require a valid plate on the rear of the vehicle.

International codes

On the international level the licence plates of different countries are distinguished by a supplementary licence plate country code. This country designator is displayed in bold block uppercase on a small white oval plate or sticker on the rear of the vehicle near the number plate.

The allocation of codes in maintained by the United Nations as the Distinguishing Signs of Vehicles in International Traffic, being authorized by the UN's 1949 and 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic. Many, but far from all, vehicle codes created since the adoption of ISO 3166 coincide with either the ISO two or three letter codes.

For a full list of licence plate country codes, see List of international license plate codes.

Imitation International codes

In Canada and the United States, where the international oval is not officially used, putting one on a car is purely a matter of personal discretion. This has given rise to a tourist-driven industry of imitation international code stickers. For example, the island of Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts has MV, while the Outer Banks region of North Carolina uses OBX. Stickers of this sort are usually visibly different from any real international code sticker, but some places sell what could appear to be real stickers, touting that the abbreviation refers to their venue.

See also


External links

de:KFZ-Kennzeichen es:Matrícula (automóviles) fr:Plaque d'immatriculation it:Targa automobilistica ja:ナンバープレート nl:Kentekenplaat pl:Tablica rejestracyjna sv:Registreringsskylt


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