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If a personalized license plate is offensive, how do I complain?

Q. How can I report an inappropriate personalized license plate?

– Chuck Trudeau, Nipomo

A. Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ website,, and search for “Customer Support.” Or you can go old school and report it via snail mail: DMV Policy Division, P.O. Box 825393, Sacramento, California, 94232-5393.

Under state law, the DMV must review any application for a personalized license-plate “number” (it is really a sequence). They are prohibited if they connote sex, vulgarity, prejudice, hostility or allude to a police agency. Officials consider foreign and slang meanings and phonetic spellings.

“The public can contact the department if they see a personalized plate they believe is offensive,” Ron Ongtoaboc, a DMV spokesman, told Honk in an email. “All complaints received are reviewed by the department, and if a configuration is determined to fall under one of the prohibited categories the department will request the plates be returned.”

Honk wanted more info on personalized plates, and Ongtoaboc kindly obliged.

As of Jan 1, there were 1,123,008 personalized plates on the roadways.

Last year, there were 275,985 requests for a set of them. On average, 10% are rejected annually, Ongtoaboc said.

Since Jan. 1, 2021, there have been 28 complaints from the public about personalized plates that were spotted out and about. Only one resulted in the plates being pulled off of the street – that was for, Ongtoaboc said, having a “configuration misrepresenting law enforcement.”

Q. Honk: So why can people stand on a bus when it is moving despite the fact there are seat belt laws for most vehicles? Weren’t seat belt laws enacted as a safety device in the event of a collision? Standing on a bus does not seem safe to me.

Joanne Lopez, Long Beach

A. Joanne, a friend of Honk’s, asked him that question while the two of them, and her husband, waited at Dodger Stadium for a ride home after a game.

Several LA Metro buses were getting ready to give fans a lift back to a park-and-ride lot, and the trio wasn’t in the mood to stand during the journey, so when the first bus had no seats left, they let other riders willing to stand pass them in line. Honk and his pals waited for the next bus to grab seats.

Later, the ol’ Honkster reached out to two large mass-transit operators to get an answer for Joanne.

“If Metro voluntarily provided seat belts on its buses, their use would be mandatory, and violators could be fined,” Patrick Chandler, a spokesman for LA Metro, told Honk in an email. “But public transit operators are not required to provide bus seat belts.

“Metro has no specific stance beyond what the regulatory agencies require of public transit agencies.”

In Honk’s experiences, standing mass-transit riders are pretty good about allowing others to find a rail or a strap to hold onto. Of course, letting people stand allows mass-transit operators to deploy fewer buses, saving taxpayer money.

Next, Honk went to Joel Zlotnik, a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, which also lets riders stand, a likely standard practice throughout the country.

Zlotnik talked to an operations expert at the agency, who told him only the driver on public-transit buses, under federal law, must wear a seat belt.

The thought, Zlotnik relayed, is that public buses are so much heavier than other vehicles, roll along slower than them, and have a professional driver, so there is less chance of a serious collision with buses. Also, in a crash, because of the coach’s size and weight, the chances of passengers getting jostled aren’t high.

If OCTA buses had to ensure patrons were in seat belts, that would be difficult to enforce, the operations expert also said, and the coaches would lose half of their capacity. Many of the buses offer 35 seats and have the ability to hold another 35 passengers while standing.

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

Source: Orange County Register

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