I usually notice when cars around me in traffic have various license plates, usually ones that differ from the norm. Here in Texas it always feels good to see a little bit of home in an Ohio plate—which isn’t as rare as you might think. Standard Texas plates are fairly bland, but they’re supposed to be that way.
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, the black-and-white standard plates “… give you a clean, simple and easy-to-read design that meets the highest public safety standards.”
The plates are similar to ones issued in the 1950s and 1960s, and I get why the state uses them—for safety and maybe even a little retro appeal. And they’re what license plates need to be: uncluttered and easy to read at a glance. Besides that, “Black and white plates look good on any color [of] vehicle,” as the DMV says.
But even as a simple guy who appreciates things made to be functional, I still think these plates are even less exciting than wearing a sock with a hole in the toe.
Ohio plates from when I was a kid in the 1980s were possibly even more bland, but they always had the numbers and letters embossed, which gave the plates some character—our latest Texas plates have the letters printed on them—plus they included the driver’s county of registration! It was always fun to see what county someone was from, if I knew where it was or had even heard of it before.
Ohio’s current plate is OK. There’s a bunch of phrases and whatnot that make up the background of the plate, which no one can see from another car. The colors are good. It just doesn’t have much character.
The state plate that always irks me is North Carolina’s, with its “First in Flight” tagline. Ohio and N.C. have long debated who gets to claim the Wright brothers, as the Wrights lived in Dayton and did a good amount of their work there, but the years of testing that led up to the first flight of an airplane was all done in N.C. because of the ideal conditions there. As far as I’m concerned, the Wrights are ours, and N.C. needs to claim something else, like Michael Jordan, and put that on its quarters and license plates.
What about where you live, dear reader—how lame are your standard license plates?