licence plate

The Road Transport Department (JPJ) has explained that the enforcement against the use of non-regulation licence plates is to make it easier for the department to identify motorists who commit traffic offences, and not because they are responsible for accidents.

Prompted by the need to address what it says is a misinterpreted view of this, the department issued a press release yesterday, in which it said that a vehicle’s registration number provided the necessary means for control measures to be taken upon seven major traffic infringements that cause accidents and injury, something that can only be implemented if the identity of the vehicle can be ascertained from a registration number that is legible and compliant with specifications.

The seven major traffic offences are not wearing a seat belt or helmet, using a mobile phone while driving or riding, overtaking on a double line, beating traffic lights, jumping the queue, driving in the emergency lane and driving over the legal speed limit.

As an example, the department said that in many hit-and-run cases, the offender could not be detected because the victim or the complainant could not state the registration number of the vehicle due to a licence plate that was illegible.

“Size specifications exist for vehicle registration number plates. They are not meant to ‘punish’ road users, but to avoid confusion in terms of legibility when viewed from a certain distance,” its Corporate and Research director Wan Ramli Wan Daud was quoted in a report by Sinar Harian.

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Of course, some motorists will no doubt feel ‘punished’ in the latest scheme of things. Now, regulations regarding vehicle number plates state clear and stringent requirements for the size of lettering on them, including height, width and distance measurements between letters.

The strict adherence to this interpretation has of course led to cases of overzealous policing of requirements during the current enforcement rounds, with summonses being reportedly issued in cases of plates with correct lettering but with letters spaced closer than the necessary one centimetre width as specified in the rules.

In an earlier commentary, Sin Chew Daily had said that while there was a need to regulate things, it should not be that rigid in adhering to the established specifications, with a plate being acceptable as long as it meets certain criteria.

Will a less parochial view come about? Reports of a circular issued yesterday by the department, in which it informs all its state branches of a suspension of operations involving non-regulation plates, have been floating about on the social media rounds (the action against the use of high-intensity discharge (HID) and strobe lights will however continue). How much of a truth to it then? Since this is unsubstantiated, speculative it remains. Expect more on the subject in due course.