License Plates: Any Room Left for Numbers?
Bad news for people who like to wear their convictions on their license plates: The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of an anti-abortion group trying to force the State of Illinois to offer license plates that read “Choose Life.”
You know, it’s an important issue of free speech. After all, bumper stickers take so much time to read.
Such specialized plates have been popular in certain areas — Florida currently offers 113 plates, everything from “Choose Life” to “Trees Are Cool”. Yes indeed, you can even support botany with your extra donations through the Secretary of State’s office. I imagine some Hummer drivers are picking them up, at least those people with a morbid sense of irony.
Out of all of Florida’s specialized plates, 10 are directed at children and families. Everyone would agree with the sentiments behind “Invest in Children”, “Family First” and “Stop Child Abuse.” Do the plates make a difference? Well, without them, the state might fall lower than its current rankings: 42nd out of 50 states in education funding, 49th in children covered by insurance, 40th in the number of single-parent households, 48th in juvenile incarceration rate.
I don’t mean to pick on Florida. My home state of Illinois has 29 different types (including the Sheet Metal Workers International Association), plus 19 collegiate plates. One of the most popular is the “Prevent Violence” plate, whose intention is very straightforward:
By purchasing Prevent Violence license plates, you make a contribution to the Violence Prevention Authority. Programs funded by the PV plate include statewide and community-based initiatives sponsored by law enforcement, churches, private organizations and foundations. The services include conflict resolution training and outreach for children, teens and young adults, the integration of violence prevention with substance abuse awareness efforts and education programs to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
You’d have to be pretty hard-hearted to be against that, if you could figure out where the money’s going. But our state’s drivers are ignoring the message, since the state has the 13th highest rate of violent crime in the country.
There are times I see European cars on TV and look at their license plates, admiring their simplicity and ability to be read. Advertising messages are everywhere now, and creeping into more and more places. Is it too much to ask that we just have license plates that tell us the vehicle number clearly, and maybe where we can get “Famous Potatoes”?