Illegal number plates are on our roads, but does it bother you?

You may have recently seen (and even played!) our number plate game to see if you could spot an illegal number plate. Many vehicles these days are displaying illegal personal number plates, so we challenged people to test their knowledge, identifying from amongst a number of real UK number plates those that were legal and those that were not.
10/09/2019 Blog
Car with an illegal number plate

There are a number of aspects about a plate that might make it illegal. The font (or typeface) needs to be of a standard type and size, for example, and cannot be stylised as with italics. The spacing between characters and groups of characters also needs to meet official criteria. It is against the law to alter the display of the registration mark, and this includes adding bolts (or drawn lines!) to change the look of a number or letter. In fact, there’s a £1000 fine for displaying a registration incorrectly on a number plate!

  • Nearly 12,000 people took part, with only 9 players failing to identify more than one plate correctly.
  • At the other end of the scale, 249 people managed to correctly identify all 25 out of 25 plates.
  • Most people, 2282 of them in total, achieved their best result of 23 out of 25.

The most easily recognised error amongst the illegal plates was regarding the font type. Italics are not allowed on number plates, nor is any alteration of the font to make a character look different, such as turning a 0 into an 8, for example.

Plates that were incorrectly spaced were the next most easily recognised. The DVLA are very strict about the spacing between characters as well as between the groups of letters and numbers, and any alteration of this is illegal.

Of particular interest to us was the lively response it generated on Facebook with nearly 200 comments discussing the rules associated with private number plates. Some comments were about number plate spacing, with many arguing that if a plate is bought to resemble a word then the owner should be allowed to alter the spacing to better present that word. Others, however, suggested that ANPR technology requires the correct spacing (although improvements to the technology means it is often quite capable of recognising even an incorrectly presented plate). Perhaps the most common feedback focussed on how illegal plates are mostly ignored by the authorities; “The amount of illegal plates you see daily is ridiculous,” one user noted.

We decided to look into this more closely, contacting each constabulary in the UK for data concerning the amount of number plate offences last year, the results of which we will publish soon.

Until then, we were wondering – are you concerned by the number of illegal plates on the road? And if so Which ones bother you most of all?