KEYC - Mankato News, Weather, Sports - - Specialty License Plates Can Cause Trouble for Law Enforcement

Specialty License Plates Can Cause Trouble for Law Enforcement

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MANKATO, Minn. -

Protect the environment. Support the troops. Show some college pride--all by your license plate.

Specialty Minnesota license plates that act as state–sanctioned billboards and fundraising tools for various causes are causing angst among some lawmakers, who are worried about where to draw the line.

For law enforcement, those specialty plates can sometimes be difficult to identify from a distance.

Cmdr. Jeremy Clifton with Mankato Public Safety says, "It makes it much more difficult if we need to create that separation or distance to quickly identify maybe who we are dealing with or specifically what vehicle we are dealing with."

And this week the MN House Transportation Committee heard another handful of special plate requests. Including breast cancer awareness, recognizing retired firefighters, and the American Red Cross, which would add to a collection of plate variations that now tops 200.

Clifton says, "If we are starting to get plates with differing backgrounds the letters and numbers become less legible at a distance."

Beyond reading what is on the plate, it can also be unclear what state the plate is from.

Clifton says, "What state it is from has to be known in order to get back to identification purposes."

Many specialty plates are about more than just looks. The "Critical Habitat" license plates have generated more the $19 million to support land conservation through the DNR, the Support our troops plates have contributed over $4 million dollars to programs that assist military families and veterans.

Clifton says, "The variety may cause us a little bit of a change in the game but we will adapt and get used to it just like everything else."

But how many is too many? Already at over 200 different plates to choose from, with many that aren't widely used, lawmakers will eventually have to decide where to draw the line.

The committee didn't vote on any of the bills this week affecting specialty plates, but the chairman said he would consider moving each of them ahead later this year.