April License Plate Report

201604 april license map

Not a big haul in April, but Indiana and Kentucky have been added to the map.

License plate spotting was, well, spotty in the first half of the month, so when I went to vote in the town election at mid-month, it was a minor thrill to find myself face to face with Panama outside the emergency services building where West Tisbury casts its ballots.

No, the car wasn’t registered in Panama and it hadn’t come here from there. Some while back — at least two decades if my memory can be trusted — passenger vehicles were only issued one number plate, to be affixed to the back end of the car. This left the front plate holder free for the owner’s self-expression. This can include plates with artistic designs or pithy slogans, or bygone plates from other jurisdictions. I vaguely remember seeing Aruba once on a Vineyard road.

For at least two decades, new plates have been issued in pairs, one to be affixed to the back of the car, the other to the front. Owners who want to express themselves are limited to bumper stickers and magnets and, for the ambitious, custom paint jobs. There are still quite a few single-plate cars on the road, however. The plates have outlasted the cars they were originally attached to, but the registration can keep being transferred as long as the plates hold up.

These plates, by the way, either have six numbers or three numbers followed by three letters. The numbers and letters are green, not red. If the three-letter sequence begins with X, Y, or Z, the numbers and letters are red and the plates come in pairs. They also say “Spirit of America” at the bottom. More than you ever needed to know, right?

In any case, it’s the plate on the back of the vehicle that counts, so I don’t have to make room on the map for Panama.


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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4 Responses to April License Plate Report

  1. Maybe you could just wear The Hat….


  2. Dennis Shanley says:

    Thanks for explaining those red and green lettered plates. I always wondered about that.


  3. I remember when two plates started to be mandatory in CA. Not always easy on some models of cars. I still see drivers who prefer using the front plate for personal statements, most often to ‘brag’ when the car has been in Europe (often German cars with a German front plate.)
    Still early in the season. Hope you can complete the map before fall.

    Liked by 1 person

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