The License plate reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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License plate

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A license plate (number plate, registration plate) is a small plate attached to a vehicle. The plate has a serial number on it which uniquely identifies the vehicle.

Federal and large countries

A California license plate, as observed in 2004, with a humorous borderEnlarge

A California license plate, as observed in 2004, with a humorous border

In Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the United States, license plates are issued by provincial/territorial/state governments. Their appearance is frequently chosen to contain symbols, colours, or slogans associated with the issuing state. The license plate number's format is chosen to provide enough numbers for all the motor vehicles in the state: Wyoming, the smallest U.S. state by population, uses NN NNNN or NN NNNL, with the first two numbers restricted to 1-23 and 99; Rhode Island, the smallest state by area, uses the formats LLNNN and NNNNN; while California and other populous states use NLLLNNN, where N is a number and L is a letter. Plates on trucks may have different formats such as NLNNNNN.

European Union

Car registration plates from France, as observed 2004Enlarge

Car registration plates from France, as observed 2004

In the European Union, number plates of a common format are issued throughout (albeit still optional in some member states). Nevertheless, individual member states use differing numbering schemes, and even colours (e.g. the United Kingdom and France have yellow plates at the rear; see British number plates). The common design consists of a blue strip on the left of the plate. This blue strip has the E.U. motif (12 yellow stars), along with the country code of the member state in which the vehicle was registered. With this vehicles do not require international code stickers for travelling between member states.

Vanity plates

In some countries, people can pay extra and get vanity plates: license plates with custom messages on them. Generally vanity plates are not allowed to have profane or obscene messages on them, and of course they must also be unique. In some jurisdictions, including virtually all U.S. states, vehicle owners may also pay extra for specialty plates: with these, the sequence of letters and numbers is chosen by the licensing agency—as with regular plates—but the owners have a broad choice of plate designs.

Novelty license plates

There also exist novelty license plates, often sold in gift or novelty shops. Similar to vanity plates, these novelties are printed with an individual's name, but unlike vanity plates they are not intended for automotive use.

International codes

On the international level the license plates of different countries are distinguished by a supplementary license plate country code. This country designator is displayed in bold block uppercase on a small white oval plate or sticker on the rear of the vehicle near the number plate.

The allocation of codes in maintained by the United Nations as the Distinguishing Signs of Vehicles in International Traffic, being authorized by the UN's 1949 and 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic. Many, but far from all, vehicle codes created since the adoption of ISO 3166 coincide with either the ISO two or three letter codes.

For a full list of license plate country codes, see List of international license plate codes.

See also

External Links