“The problem with these types of studies is that they can be skewed in so many different ways,” said Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute. “It’s not a clear thing.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Our last urban myth made me chuckle. When the reflective coating wears off your license plate, it supposedly can’t be read by toll-booth cameras. That means you could evade a toll, and they’d never know!
For the truth, I called Mark LaFrance, project manager for vehicle safety and compliance services for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Oh, did he surprise me.
“If all the reflective [component] is gone from the license plate, it just looks like gray metal to the camera,” he said. “You can’t make out the number at all. It’s pretty amazing.”
But ghost plates aren’t a huge issue, he stressed. When a plate has lost its luster, it will fail inspection — by law a plate must be legible at a distance of at least 60 feet at night — and you’ll be forced to get new plates. “By and large, 99 percent of the plates out there will reflect just fine,” LaFrance said.
You’d imagine that older, green-and-white plates would account for the remaining 1 percent. But not necessarily, LaFrance said.
“It kind of depends how much salt and how much sun and how old the plate is,’’ he said. “Some older folks put the car with a green plate in a garage and it never comes out, so it still reflects.”