Created on Friday, 28 January 2011
A reader wrote to me recently and asked, "Are front licence plates mandatory in Ontario?" We hear this query often — especially when consumers are picking up a new vehicle from our dealership.
Occasionally, new owners will request that we remove or do not install the front plate when prepping their vehicle for delivery. New car dealers do not have this discretion and will not agree to do this.
Interestingly, among the many new-car advertisements published by manufacturers in last week's Wheels section, only a couple were shown with a front plate.
Our province requires that all passenger vehicles have front and rear plates. Both plates must be plainly visible at all times. This provincial requirement law dates back to 1903.
If you drive without a front or rear plate, you are effectively breaking the law and could be fined. Sometimes, when drivers are caught without a front licence plate, they are given a warning, but don't count on it. Driving without a rear plate, which also contains the renewal licence sticker, is a more serious offence.
Passenger vehicles don't really need two licence plates, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MOT) should follow the lead of nine out of 13 of Canada's provinces and territories that no longer require a front plate.
Many automobile designs are compromised by having a licence plate stuck onto the front bumper or grille along with a mounting bracket that's often an afterthought.
Designers agree that the most important styling element of an automobile is its frontal appearance. That is what defines the marque (brand) and gives vehicle design its individuality.
It should be noted that all automobiles are designed to accommodate rear plates, often in a recess moulded in the trunk sheet metal or on the rear bumper. However, in jurisdictions that mandate them, the front plate and its mounting bracket always look stuck-on.
Eliminating front plates (and the costs of production, storage and accounting) could save the province money. Saskatchewan saves an estimated $370,000 per year by not requiring a front plate. In Ontario, the savings would be in the millions.
Some might argue that a front licence plate is necessary for photo radar and electronic toll roads. Not so. Photo radar and toll-road cameras capture the rear licence plate.
Another reason to legislate the removal of the front plate has to do with vehicle efficiency. In some instances, a front licence plate compromises the vehicle's aerodynamics; and efficiency can be further compromised by restricted airflow into the engine.
Plus, the annual licence renewal stickers on passenger vehicles are affixed to the rear licence plate, not the front.
In Ontario, licence plates actually belong to the provincial government; they are issued for an annual fee. If you alter the actual plate (cutting it down in size to make it fit into the lower part of the grille) or obscure it in any way, you may be breaking the law.
I understand that for most motorists and car enthusiasts, a front plate is more of an eyesore than a hot-button issue. But enough car buyers have raised this point over the years that it's an issue that could easily be addressed by the MOT.
If you would like to see the government put an end to the "two licence plate" requirement in this province, write to your local MPP or to Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister of Transportation, 3rd Floor, Ferguson Block, 77 Wellesley St. West, Toronto, Ont., M7A 1Z8.