The side-view of this licence plate cover shows how it is designed to defeat intersection and security cameras. Photo: RCMP

Covering up your licence plates could net a hefty fine

The only thing between your plates and other traffic should be fresh air

Licence plates come in a pair for a reason, and the RCMP are reminding car owners that the only thing between your licence plates and other traffic should be air.

“When it comes to after-market licence plate covers and having no front plate, we sometimes issue warnings instead of a ticket,” says Corp. Michael McLaughlin of the Coquitlam RCMP. He adds that there is no good excuse for not having a front licence plate, and that using a cover that is deliberately designed to defeat red-light and security cameras will likely get you a $230 fine.

The BC Motor Vehicle Act is quite clear on the subject. Section 3.011 reads “Number plates issued for a vehicle under the Commercial Transport Act or Motor Vehicle Act must be attached (a) one plate to the front and one plate to the rear of the vehicle, if 2 number plates are issued for a vehicle.”

Section 3.03 covers obstructions to the visibility of licence plates. “A number plate must be kept entirely unobstructed and free from dirt or foreign material, so that the numbers and letters on it may be plainly seen and read at all times.”

Don’t think that because a cover is for sale at a legitimate retailer, auto dealer, or repair shop that it is legal in B.C. Canadian Tire, for example, offers several licence plate covers for sale, noting that they are designed to protect your plates from the elements. However, the product description also notes that people should “check local regulations regarding use”.

One purchaser commented “I received a ‘strong warning’ from an RCMP officer in B.C. for having these on my vehicle. I was informed that I was lucky that he was a ‘nice’ officer as the fine would have been $230.00 for ‘plate obstruction’. He said that they can sell whatever they want but it is up to the consumer to know that it is illegal to obstruct your plate in any way… unless you feel like arguing in court, save your time and money.”

McLaughlin advises car owners just to put both plates on your vehicle and leave them the way you got them from your insurance broker. And having a licence plate propped on the front windshield is not a good strategy, unless you really enjoy attention from police.

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