Vehicle license plates long a topic of interest [Column]

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On April 12, 1946, Maryland Gov. Herbert O'Conor "announced his decision to provide permanent automobile registration tags for motor vehicles in the State," according to a local newspaper.

The Westminster newspaper, the Democratic Advocate, reported O'Conor to have "declared," that using two license plates on each motor vehicle in the state will "save $60,000 annually."


More research is needed to understand how two license plates would save the state money.

"This is the plan we intended to inaugurate a few years ago, but due to the war, and the shortage of metals, our plan had to be delayed," O'Conor said.


"Now that aluminum for permanent plates is possible to obtain, I have decided to establish the new plan. It is generally agreed that the public will greatly benefit by the issuance of a permanent plate.

"The new plates will be in duplicate, as they were in pre-war years, and will of course be attached to the front and rear of the car. The two plate system was always very much more valuable, especially in Police work, where it has been very difficult to identify stolen or abandoned cars, or hit and run drivers, because the officer always had to be in the rear of the car to make his identification. Under the two plate system cars may be identified when approaching the officer".

The paper reported that O'Conor further elaborated: "Under the new system, every motorist, will retain his regular number and will always be able to identify his own car when approaching either from the front or the rear. This has been and could be increasingly difficult to do, because in the standardized types and makes of automobiles the many cars of the same make look identical when parked on the streets or parking lots."

More than 25 years earlier, the state was equally concerned about stolen vehicles. On May 14, 1920, the Union Bridge Pilot reported, "The recent act of the Legislature requiring all owners of motor-cars in the State of Maryland to register title to their cars with the Automobile Commissioner becomes effective June 1. …

"The object of the law, as explained by Automobile Commissioner Baughman, is to close Maryland as a market for stolen automobiles."

One thing is for sure. A quick search of the Maryland General Assembly website indicates that license plates are a perennial hot topic.

During the 2013 regular session, for example, there were 11 bills proposed, ranging from providing special tags for "United States Armed Forces," to changing the law so that only one "registration plate" would be required per vehicle.

For a number of years, the single plate legislation has been introduced by Del. Donald Elliot, a Republican who represents District 4B that includes parts of Carroll and Frederick counties.


In the session that concluded last week, legislators submitted eight bills for consideration, including Elliott's.

The 2014 legislative initiative failed, after receiving an unfavorable report from the Environmental Matters Committee.