Crackdown on puzzling car number plates

JOELLE DALLY AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2012

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Police already have the power to pull personalised number plates off cars for being offensive and now they are targeting ones that are confusing.

On the radar in Christchurch are combinations of letters and numbers which look alike, such as Q0Q0OQ, I111I1 or S3SS3S.

Police say plates with a sequence of similar numbers and letters designed to confuse, or which cannot be easily identified if they were involved in a traffic accident or crime, are not in the interests of road safety. The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has confiscated two in the city - and more may follow.

A police national headquarters spokesman said a provision in the Land Transport Act 1998 states if a registration plate is offensive or "confusing" there are grounds to apply for its cancellation. An application must be made to the NZTA.

Potentially offensive plates have become more of an issue since 2001, when number plates began including three letters.

People wanting personalised plates have to apply to a company called Personalised Plates, which decided whether to grant the applications.

NZTA guidelines set out what is acceptable. The agency has banned some three-letter combinations, including plates beginning with FAK, FAG and FKN, GUK and FQM.

It also prevents the manufacturing of general plates that contain letters such as I, O and V, as the letters can easily be mistaken and cause issues for enforcement authorities.

The NZTA had some recall if inappropriate plates "slip through", a spokesman said.

Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson, of the Canterbury road policing unit, said confusing registration plates were a concern.

"The question that's got to be asked with some of these plates, why are they getting those plates if the intent is not to confuse people and diminish ability to record numbers if they do anything illegal?"

An NZTA spokesman said it received only "a handful" of complaints each year. Personalised Plates declined to comment. Plates recently listed for sale on Trade Me by Christchurch sellers include 1 NO1 1, which had a starting bid of $111,111, DAMAGD for $18,000, and AAAOQ1 (AAA oh cute 1) for $799.

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- The Press

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