Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Life On A Plate

Florida used to swap out their plates every five years; the Pontiac is on its second “State of the Arts” plate, but this is the style of the one and only license plate that I had on the 1995 Mustang. It was due to be replaced by the new style, but in March 2008 I had a run-in — literally — with an elderly gentleman in downtown Coral Gables. The car was totaled, and the next day the Pontiac came out of retirement.

As I noted previously, Florida has over 100 specialty license plates. The joke is that the reason there are so many is because the standard plate is so unattractive. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, and compared to the history of Florida’s plates, putting a picture of an orange and the state outline is an improvement.

My one gripe about this plate, and most of the previous Florida plates, is the slogan “Sunshine State.” I get the Chamber of Commerce connection; it’s a snappy phrase that reminds us that we depend on tourism for our livelihood. But when it comes to sunshine, I’ve lived in states where they get a lot more sunshine on average — New Mexico, for example — and the skin cancer rate here in Florida is not exactly something you want to tout.

Be that as it may, license plate slogans nowadays run the table from song lyrics (Alabama) to patriotism (Massachusetts) to political protest (Washington, D.C.). The one thing that they rely on, though, is getting people from other places to see the plate; after all, if you live in a state, you’re probably aware of its assets or history. I think it would probably be better if the state would come up with a slogan that was actually useful to other drivers. Ohio had the right idea back in 1973 with their “SEAT BELTS FASTENED?” Today it might be more along the lines of “HANG UP AND DRIVE” or “YOU PAID FOR THE TURN SIGNAL – USE IT.” The problem is that a lot of drivers cover over the slogan with a plate frame with their own message promoting everything from the dealer who sold the car, the supernatural being that is the driver’s co-pilot, the sports team they love, their other car, or a well-known blog (ahem), so a lot of drivers never see the slogan.

Florida, like most states, has vanity plates. Maybe they could also add vanity slogans, too, under the same guidelines — no obscenity, etc. It could raise a lot of money for the state, and it would be more interesting to see something other than SUNSHINE STATE when you’re stuck on US 1 in a tropical downpour.

Photo by David Nicholson.