Ohio Just Killed Front License Plates: Now All States Need To Follow

Today Ohioans can celebrate the death of front license plates. It just killed the need for the front plates. There are now 20 states that have determined front license plates are unnecessary. Now all the states that still do need to follow Ohio’s lead. This was a long and contentious fight by police and even Uber and Lyft to keep the law as it was. But Ohio lawmakers sided with car enthusiasts that say front license plates damage front bumpers and affect air coming into the grille as well as aerodynamics.

Some Ohio state representatives also felt that missing front plates could lead to racial profiling. Certain infamous traffic stops over the last several years have been partly initiated due to a lack of a front plate. The fatal shooting of Sam DuBose in 2015 started as a traffic stop for no front license plate according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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Generally, these are the states that still require front plates

Old 1960 Nebraska plate
Old Nebraska front license plate | Getty

Generally, most of the northern states require front plates. The exceptions are California and Hawaii, which still do. All West Coast and most East Coast states require front plates. Mostly southern and eastern portions of the country do not. 

The states not requiring a front license plate are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia. There are some that try to get around the law by placing the plate in the windshield. Washington state will exempt requiring a front plate if there is not an identifiable location for one. 

Some lawmakers object to the second plate because of financial impacts. The manufacturing and distribution of two plates cost more. Some states scan front plates for toll roads. So they argue that by not having a front plate they lose that toll. Other states find that glare is a problem at the rear of vehicles, so scanning a front plate is the preferred method. 

Front plates can get in the way of adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic braking

rear "Bless" license plate
Rear license plate | Getty

Custom and antique car owners dislike them because there is usually no provision for a front plate. Aesthetically they prefer not seeing them. But there is a larger issue that favors keeping front plates off of vehicles and that’s some of the recent safety features. Front plates can get in the way and interrupt adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic braking. It would be a shame to defeat these safety features for the sake of a front plate. 

On the other hand, law enforcement likes them because it improves identifying vehicles for obvious reasons. Having the ability to identify a car from two directions is better than one. But here’s a thought; cars are sending out signals and monitoring roads for safety features. Why can’t a signal be devised originating from the car that can be detected by law enforcement? 

Give the police what they want in a more 21st century way

California license plate

Then no plates would be necessary because police and fire could detect the signal which would have identifying information. Is it an invasion of privacy? Maybe, but if law enforcement needs to identify a vehicle to the extent it needs two plates, then give them what they want in a more 21st century way? 

Currently, three states have digital plates which also seems like a way to feature some sort of detecting device. Arizona, California, and Michigan are the only states allowing digital plates. But Georgia, Florida, Washington, and Illinois are also looking into legalizing them. Rather than doing the digital plate deal, a simple electronic device that puts out secure info seems like a much better and easier way to go. What do you think?