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‘Carrot-Stick Amnesty for Cars’

I found your editorial about vehicle registrations most interesting. I had no idea that there was such a large amount of money being lost to the government due to that problem. Unfortunately, your “remedies” fail to address adequately the “real” problems. Therefore your “solution” is inadequate.

One part of the problem that would remain, even if your recommendations were adopted, is that it is hard to tell when a vehicle is supposed to have the new color of sticker on the rear license plate. The little sticker identifying the month has three letters less than three-quarters of an inch high to do so, and after a year or so the letters begin to fade, so that reading the month is even more difficult, even close up. If cities cannot maintain adequate parking patrol, how can they spare valuable police personnel to go around squinting at each license plate, seeking a few unregistered vehicles to cite?

Before we switched from the one-deadline-per-year schedule, it was proposed that the DMV computer be used to establish 10 monthly deadlines (January through October) for automobiles, with other registrations being assigned to November and December. With that procedure, the last digit of the license numbers would indicate the month, from “1" to “9,” then “0.” That way, law enforcement officers could just glance at that digit and determine if the vehicle has the proper color of yearly sticker showing.

Unfortunately, the computerized conversion did not employ that simple, direct procedure. Instead, money was spent to produce and distribute those little “month” stickers, which are only serviceable for a few years. (When a traffic officer stops a vehicle for a violation, he doesn’t go according to the sticker, anyway--instead, he asks to see the registration slip.)

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If your recommendations were adopted, it would still be beneficial to coordinate renewal month with last digit; then, in May, for example, digits “1" through “4" should have the current year’s color of sticker, and a “5" might . Implementation of such a coordination would be a simple computer task. It would cause variation in registration fees for just one year, but there would be no problem in computer-programming the task, just as the initial conversion was readily done.

One other factor the editorial writer overlooked is that an owner can certify that an unregistered vehicle has been “non-operating” and is thus exempt from past fees and penalties. (If you cannot afford repair and safety work, so you don’t drive the vehicle, then you probably cannot afford registration fees; if you were required to pay fees and penalties, such people might figure, “Well, I had to register it, so I might as well go ahead and drive it, even though it needs tires and makes smog, and isn’t insured. If I get caught, so what?”).

If penalties were increased, as you proposed, those who would decide to “be legal” if there were an amnesty might feel it wiser to claim “non-operating” status rather than be identified as a “scofflaw” and required to pay penalties.

WILLIAM D. BATES

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