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Digital plates: A solution in search of a problem

The MVA rejected a CHUMP license plate, but more costly, if polite, digital plates may soon be available.
The MVA rejected a CHUMP license plate, but more costly, if polite, digital plates may soon be available. (Baltimore Sun)

So let me see if I have this straight. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration is considering switching to electronic license plates (“State begins pilot program for digital license plates,” June 19) which seems to amount to slapping the equivalent of an iPad on the back of every car in Maryland. It is reported this will save the $500,000 expense of mailing out renewal stickers. What I would like to know is who is going to pay the $3 to $7 monthly fee for these plates, not to mention the estimated cost of $350 million-$500 million to purchase the plates? This cost is based on the estimate of the quoted price of each plate multiplied by the one million Maryland drivers represented by the AAA Mid-Atlantic. If this cost is for each plate and each car would need two then we’re talking about $1 billion. And not mentioned is the cost of implementing and maintaining the computer infrastructure to manage the program. Just what the MVA needs — more data to manage. They could hire a few extra agents instead so motorists wouldn’t have to waste hours sitting in the MVA office to tend to routine matters

I’m not sure how many drivers there actually are in Maryland (at least a million, I assume) or what is the cost to make the current aluminum plates (a few dollars each, maybe), but this seems like a huge amount of money to spend on a solution looking for a problem. Not to mention the fact that the digital plates look fragile and there will undoubtedly be some amount of damage and breakage to the plates. If state officials think we have this kind of money to throw around for this silly project then I have a bridge they might like to buy.

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If truck fleet owners want to use them because of the extra features the new plates offer, fine. Let them buy them themselves. There are much more pressing issues for the state to spend our tax dollars on. And don’t get me started on the potential for misuse of the tracking technology built in to the digital plates. How difficult is it to put on a sticker every other year? And registration renewal only takes a couple minutes online. This whole project is pure folly. It figures they would come up with this idea in California.

Jack Rehner, Glen Arm

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