front license plate

Having recently made a road trek from New York to Tennessee, (I will NEVER do that again) this topic was bandied about over a morning smoke (he did, I didn’t), two days ago in the hotel parking lot. A Tennessee transplant from South Jersey lamented over his hometown when he spied my NY tags, (front license plate and back – thank you).

While Uncle Andy whined about how much he missed his soft pretzels, pizza and hoagies, he relished the fact that the government “don’t bother you too much in these parts”. “In fact”, he boasted, “you only need one plate on your car”. It sparked an interest as I pondered the surgeon general’s warnings about second-hand smoke.


Thirty-one states require their motorists to display front license plates and plates on the back of their vehicles. The “Rugged Nineteen” states that require only one plate include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico. North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Some of these states do not even require a state safety inspection, (but we’ll save that one for another article).


The front plate law debate doesn’t center around government intervention but rather considers the aesthetics of the vehicles’ lines and the obstructive value attributed to the addition of a front plate. HOW IT LOOKS. Seriously though, the more cerebral debaters stick to the nuts and bolts of the matter (You’ll need twice as many nuts and bolts in my state). Come calamity, accident or amber alert, it is easier to identify the vehicle and its registered owner if there are two markers. In other words – dragnet can roger that whether the roadster is coming or going.


One debater makes the case that if they were being followed they’d need to see a front plate in order to report it. Two plates makes life easier and safer for everyone. You run the risk of getting ticketed and if you purchase in a state that doesn’t require two to one that does…(another snafu).  You might end up at a great traffic school though so not all bad. If you don’t want to be stopped unnecessarily this one warrants research. No matter how regal the ride you can always have your car manufacturer tell you how to comply with your particular states’ regulations with little or no pain.

Interestingly enough, the one plate debate is pretty even all over our land. When I think California I think laid back. Not like Uncle Andy, but “laid back – chic”. Even so Golden Staters pipe up just as much as everyone on this issue. Blame Hollywood, but Californians are imagined to be mad about their cars, In reality, California doesn’t crack the top ten in vanity plate purchases. See, I told you laid back – chic. California drivers ed is pretty relaxed as well.

Overall we don’t want a world where our road mates are highway phantoms in our rear-view mirror. They may be carrying an authentic hoagie or soft pretzel. Might be a Golden State Warrior.