To ‘look nice’ or avoid detection? Why some motorists risk flouting the law with small licence plates
One might have to squint to see them, but small vehicle licence plates – some of which are illegal – are being zoomed in on and scrutinised online by netizens.
Photos of non-compliant licence plates have been surfacing on Facebook traffic groups, with at least nine posts of such plates in the six weeks before Nov 24, on the SG Road Vigilante page.
These plates, which are either small in length and height or feature unusually small letters and numbers, can be seen in online posts to be mounted on both cars and motorcycles.
They may be going against the Land Transport Authority (LTA) guideline on vehicle registration which states that vehicles must have their licence plates “prominently displayed before they can be driven on public roads”.
Car plate makers and automotive companies The Straits Times spoke to said that vehicle owners install such small, potentially illegal plates for aesthetic purposes, or to avoid detection by speed and red light cameras.
Ms Iris Seah, director of Chuan Heng Signcrafts, said that her customers who request these plates do it mostly for aesthetic reasons.
“Some of them say these plates look nice, as they do not like them to be so big or so obvious,” said Ms Seah, adding that she warns and discourages potential customers if their requests do not comply with regulations.
“Usually, they can still be seen and are quite visible but they are smaller than the size in the guidelines,” she added.
Mr Gary Tan, managing director of Gary’s Art and Sign, estimated that about 90 per cent of his customers who request for small licence plates are those who drive supercars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris.
This is because they find it difficult to fit a regular-sized plate at the front of the supercar as many models have limited space there, he explained.
Some motorists also acquire such plates to evade being identified by speed and red light cameras, said Mr Johnson Soh, director of Soh Guan Chuan Auto Supply.
While he advises his customers against using these plates as they are illegal, Mr Soh said most of them still take the risk.
“Some say that their friends have used (small licence plates) for a few months and do not get caught, so they also want to get (the plates),” he said.
“They also have a set of legal licence plates which they put on when they go for (periodic) inspections.”
Mr Soh estimated that about 70 per cent of the small licence plates he produces are for motorcycles.
However, all three companies told ST that they have not seen an increase in the demand for these small plates since the start of 2023, with each of them saying that they account for less than five per cent of all the licence plates they make in a month.
Illegal licence plates flout the requirements under the Fourth Schedule of the Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Registration and Licensing) Rules relating to specifications for identification marks.
In a written parliamentary question, Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru on Nov 22 asked the Minister for Transport how many vehicles have had enforcement actions taken against the drivers or vehicle owners for failing to conform to the provisions of the requirements of the Fourth Schedule of the Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Registration and Licensing) Rules relating to specifications for identification marks, as broken down by vehicle type.
In his reply, Acting Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat shared that as of Oct 31, there were 1,078 enforcement actions taken against motorcycles for number plate offences – which may include violations other than size and dimension requirements – and 641 for passenger cars.
Ms He did not respond to ST when contacted.
In response to ST’s queries, an LTA spokesman said vehicle owners must display the licence plates issued to their registered vehicles prominently at all times, so that vehicles can be easily identified for regulation, enforcement, and emergency purposes.
He added that LTA conducts regular enforcement against errant vehicles who do not abide to its regulations.
First-time offenders who are caught not adhering to the mandatory specifications of a vehicle licence plate can be fined up to $1,000 or be jailed up to 3 months or both.
For all vehicles, letters and digits are to be 70mm high, 50mm wide and 10mm broad with the space between adjoining letters or between adjoining digits being 10 mm, among other lettering dimensions requirements.
For motorcycles, to accommodate the curvature of the mudguard, there are smaller alternative lettering dimensions for the front and rear licence plates. For example, the letter and digits have to be 35mm high, 25mm wide and 5mm broad for the front licence plate, among other requirements.