Ohio's Department of Public Safety, usually in my good graces, has just made a suggestion that I have a problem with.
Let's see if I have this straight.
The department, in a budget proposal, is suggesting that drivers would have to replace their metal license plates every seven years.
First, I totally understand the reason that some plates need to be replaced, if the numbers and letters are unreadable.
Now, I see where this is a huge problem for safety forces who have concerns that unreadable plates would put them in jeopardy if they need to approach a vehicle too closely to read the plate.
If you read further in the proposals, the department would also retire all red, white and blue Bicentennial plates, along with the older gold-tinted plates, this December.
And to put all the facts on the table, replacing your plates would cost you $10.
The Bicentennial plates came out in 2003 and the older gold-tinted plates were available 1996-2001.
I happen to have the 1997 gold-tinted plates on my car.
Those plates are in pristine condition, as both plates have been covered with clear, plastic covers bought every other year from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
I have spent more than $10 in the intervening 16 years to keep my license plates covered and in perfect condition, because I knew I would have to replace my plates if they became rusted or unreadable.
I replaced the covers when they became a bit road-worn from the elements.
Does that seem obsessive? My late father, grandfather and three uncles all owned car dealerships and taking care of your car was expected, so I come by the habit honestly.
In addition, one of my habits since I was first behind the wheel was to look at cars' license plates. Don't ask me why but I can tell you a car's plate and the make before I can tell you who was driving it.
And I still do it.
That being said, I have seen plates covered with once-clear plastic covers that are unreadable because of the worn covers. I have seen plates so badly rusted that I couldn't read the plate when I was stopped behind a vehicle at a stoplight.
And yes, Ohio's weather is much more destructive of metal plates than many other states, like Florida, for example. (Does the constant sun "bleach" plates in Florida? I don't know...but I digress)
I am also a champion of police officer safety and clearly see (no pun intended) why unreadable plates create a possible safety issue.
So, what would be a reasonable compromise? I have thought about this for three days.
Having a BMV staffer come outside to look at my plates when I want to renew them to prove that they are readable is too subjective and labor-intensive.
Taking a picture of my plates and showing them to the BMV staffer is also not a good solution.
Having your local police department view your plates and getting a signed affidavit that they are readable to take to the BMV would put too much of a burden on the departments.
Although I am not a fan of adding more laws to the books, maybe more ticketing of drivers whose plates are unreadable, just like not wearing seatbelts is now a secondary offense when pulled over (although some municipalities, like Orange Village, make not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense, I believe).
I am out of options.
Maybe the Ohio Department of Public Safety can come up with another idea to add more money to its coffers. I don't like this proposal.