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The Vehicle Registration Scam
8/7/2001

A recent article in Pravda (oops, I mean The Philadelphia Daily News) highlights a new problem with State-enforced vehicle registration. Of course, the problem was one that was caused by the State itself, and in trying to correct it the State has only exacerbated it.

Pennsylvania is one of forty-odd States that require drivers to have liability insurance before they may operate their cars. (The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is New Hampshire, but I believe there are a few others.) In addition, your car is required to be registered with the State. In order to register your car, you must submit your car's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and any insurance information you may have. You cannot register your car without first buying insurance.

A favorite ploy of modern-day statists is to make so many laws that virtually any person can be arrested at any time. The vehicle registration debacle is a part of this ploy. In Pennsylvania, a person missing his registration sticker can be pulled over at any time. This has led to rational (but immoral) behavior on the part of persons who cannot afford car insurance and Philadelphia's car insurance rates are astronomical by any standard of measurement but who nevertheless have to drive in order to work. These people steal registration stickers.

How? In general, they take clippers or wire cutters to other people's license plates, and clip off a corner (State law also requires the registration sticker to be on one of two corners on your license plate). Sometimes they'll clip off a whole side, and in certain cases will steal the whole plate.

Drivers who try to protect their property (after all, they did pay for those license plates and registration stickers) by putting them inside their cars or by putting plastic covers over their plates to hamper thieves are then punished. Why? It's not legal!

The great solution devised by the State of Pennsylvania is to come up with a sticker to replace the license-plate registration sticker. (Currently this sticker is only being issued to drivers in Philadelphia County, but I'm sure this great plan will be implemented on a wider basis in the near future.) This new sticker gets placed on the inside of a car's rear windshield.

There are a number of problems with this new solution, however:

  • The glue on the sticker is very weak and they tend to fall off in the heat.
  • The new sticker also reduces visibility through the rear windshield (like another State-mandated "solution", the rear headrest).
  • They're still getting stolen! You see, some people leave their car windows open a bit so their cars don't get too hot, and criminals are reaching into their cars to steal the stickers!

The Daily News article cited above proposed a couple of new solutions to the problems raised by the old solution:

To fix the problem, several readers propose simply popping the sticker into the glove compartment to be shown on demand; others recommend combining registration and inspection stickers into one.
These "solutions" are easily dispensed with:
  1. Glove-compartment sticker. So people will still be getting pulled over, increasing the chance of arrest, injury, etc. Not only will this be more dangerous to the drivers, it will be more dangerous to the cops.
  2. Combining registration and inspection stickers. Currently Pennsylvania has a "privatized" system of vehicle inspection your mechanic performs your inspection and issues you a sticker. (I say "privatized" because nothing that is mandated by the State can be said to be truly privatized.) I wonder how these "readers" expect their mechanics to handle vehicle registration, too, with all its attendant paperwork, red tape, and bureaucracy. Maybe Pennsylvania could create a New Jersey-style DMV, in which all inspection, registration, etc., is funneled through State apparatus (and drivers wait in their cars for hours to get them inspected!).

Why add more "solutions" on top of old "solutions"? The only real solution to the problem is to eliminate motor vehicle registration and State-mandated automobile insurance entirely. No one will be stealing license plates then! There won't be any to steal.

More to the point, such a victory as small as it would be would open up a bigger topic to debate: Why is the State involved in road-building, -maintenance, and traffic enforcement anyway?

August 7, 2001

 


David Smith is a technology professional from Philadelphia. His personal web site can be found here.

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