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New CA Law Requires Temporary Plates for Newly Purchased Cars

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Via Ted Rogers at Biking in L.A. comes news that the State of California will be joining dozens of other states in requiring all new cars to have temporary 90-day license plates. The goal of the law, A.B. 516, is to make it easier to identify drivers breaking the law, be they toll-lane scofflaws or hit-and-run murderers.

Rogers is effusive in praise of the new law:

In a big step forward in the fight against hit-and-run drivers, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring all motor vehicles sold in the state to have temporary license plates when they roll off the lot.

Currently, drivers only have to display a small bill of sale, which can’t be read at a distance to identify a driver trying to flee the scene, or report them to the police for some other reason.

Later in his piece, Rogers dismisses the concerns of consumer rights advocates who oppose the law noting that there have been few complaints about similar laws in other states. While I, and I imagine most Streetsblog and Biking in L.A. readers approve of laws such as this, we should take the concerns of the detractors into account to make sure the DMV rules are as fair as possible.

The Los Angeles Times quotes a letter by Rosemary Shahan, president of the advocacy group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. Shahan ticks off a list of her concerns that people will get tickets for using expired temporary plates when dealers don't submit paperwork, go out of business or sell vehicles with unpaid liens or tickets. 

Despite its car-centric acronym, CARS and Shahan have been praised for taking on the car-lobby from Livable Streets Advocates, including then-named Streetsblog Capitol Hill in 2010.

A couple of months ago, I got pulled over for having expired license plates. The officer gave me a ticket and explained that I could avoid the fine by getting my registration renewed and showing proof at the appropriate courthouse. It does not seem to big a lift to make sure the rules allow the same leniency for drivers caught with expired temporary plates.

A couple of weeks later, I did just that. No fine, no problem.

For today, this law being signed is good news. No longer will scofflaw and dangerous drivers hide behind the anonymity of a new car purchase, and that should make our streets a little safer for everyone.

For more information, visit bill author and Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin's website to read his statement on the bill signing.

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