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Dealerships must help, but drivers still on the hook to have 2 license plates

Q. I see quite a few newer cars with no front license-plate holders – including brands such as Tesla, Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia. Often, these are sportier cars. From what I can tell, there was never any holder attached to the front – so that tells me the dealers are skirting the law requiring plates on front and back. Is there no penalty for the dealers, or is it only the vehicle owner who gets a ticket if a cop has the time to stop them? Also, I like the new temporary license plates, but will there be leeway for all of those who bought a car before the new law went into effect?

– Guy Ball, Tustin

A. Until this past Jan. 1, owners had up to 90 days to slap on the front and back license plates for new cars and trucks sent to them by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If a buyer didn’t want the front license-plate frame on, the dealer might just toss it in the car’s trunk and, at times, even make the new owner sign a document acknowledging the law does require two plates.

After that, the driver was on the hook if pulled over.

Since Jan. 1, under a new law, dealerships must now issue temporary license plates before any vehicle rolls off of the lot so that an officer can pull up, via computer, info about the ride and its owner.

No longer should a toll evader or a red-light runner caught on camera, or a hit-and-run suspect seen by a witness, get away just because they had dealership advertisements in the license-plate holders instead of temporary or permanent plates.

And, just like before, the driver (or owner) of a car is the one who will pay the price if pulled over for not having two plates, said Duane Graham, an officer and spokesman for the California Highway Patrol out of the Westminster division.

For a couple of months, some new vehicles operating on the previous law will be floating around without any plates before disappearing like Vegas and Pintos.

Q. Hi Honk. Over the past few months, I’ve seen Caltrans workers in their safety vests sitting on lounge chairs on freeway overpasses. They are just staring at on-coming traffic on the freeway below. What are they doing?

– Kevin Moseley, Fullerton

A.  Gathering data, Kevin, counting the number of vehicles and the passengers in them.

“We do this frequently,” said Van Nguyen, a Caltrans spokeswoman for Orange County. “It is a routine federal requirement. We’ll count at peak hours in the morning, mid-day and evening.”

Honkin’ fact: If you have a young driver or driver-to-be, Honk recommends you both take a “Start Smart” class that all California Highway Patrol offices offer for free. Honk took a Little Honk to one years ago, and she enjoyed it and talked about it later (pretty good for a teenager).

They are about two hours long and cover driver responsibility, safety precautions and other stuff. Officer Graham, famous for his frequent appearances here in Honk, will lead one on Feb. 20, a Wednesday, starting at 6 p.m. You can reserve spots by calling him: 714-892-4426.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online:

Source: Orange County Register

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