For a state bogged down by a $19 billion budget deficit, any idea to raise money without increasing taxes is attractive. That’s why a handful of California lawmakers have lined up to support a futuristic plan for electronic license plates which flash advertising information when the vehicle has stopped for more than four seconds, a plan critics say could induce an increase in dangerous distracted driving.
The bill’s author, Sen. Curran Price of Los Angeles, said he hopes the state Department of Motor Vehicles will be the first in the country to lend support to the groundbreaking change to road interaction. “We’re just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues,” said Price. “It’s an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront.”
That said, it’s difficult to tell where the pimping out of licenses plates will stop, and if it could end up causing yet another distraction for drivers already overloaded with cell phones and other handheld gadgets. The San Francisco-based company designing the plates — Smart Plate — has said that drivers could eventually profess allegiance to a University or sports team rather than advertising information. “The idea is not to turn a motorist’s vehicle into a mobile billboard,” said Smart Plate president M. Conrad Jordan, but “to create a platform for motorists to show their support for existing good working organizations.”
So far, the California Highway Patrol has not taken a position on the controversial license plates. But in an era in which technology seems all-but-unstoppable (and within the country’s most technology-friendly state), approval of the electronic plates seems all-but inevitable. We can only hope that they are designed effectively to avoid causing more distracted driving-related car accidents.
Photo credit: rick