New license plates planned for 2009

SEATTLE – The state Department of Licensing plans to begin making seven-character Washington state license plates in 2009.

The 1958 system currently used by the state involves a six-character combination of three numbers and three letters. Inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla are making plates with a letter series that begins with W.

Nearing the end of the alphabet, there are only 2.3 million traditional combinations remaining, and the state figures it will run out by July 2009.

The exact format of the new seven-character configuration will be decided in the next year, said Gigi Zenk, spokeswoman for Licensing.

“Maybe it’ll be a letter, several numbers, then a letter,” she said.

Now comes the tricky part.

With 4.1 million passenger cars licensed here, state officials need to ensure letters aren’t arranged with a hidden meaning that could be offensive.

“It’s not something you think about on Monday, and then do it on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon,” said Glenn Ball, administrator of title and registration services for the state.

Washington’s first vehicle license plate was “B-1,” issued May 2, 1905, to a man named S.A. Perkins of Tacoma with a 30-horsepower Pope-Toledo touring car. That year, 763 license numbers were issued.

Now, roughly 860,000 sets of license plates are issued by the state each year. They must be replaced every seven years because their reflective coating breaks down.

Plates are randomly assigned to licensing agencies, so reusing already issued numbers would require plates to be custom-manufactured and mailed out.

A request to retain an old number will cost $20 for the service. Only 55,000 people have chosen to do that in the past seven years.

Some letter combinations are also banned, therefore limiting the number of plates that can be made.

There are eight pages with 2,432 “objectionable three-letter plate combinations,” said Tom Richardson, the state’s license-plate supply officer.

The list includes profane groupings beginning with “F,” but also combinations such as: APE, BRA, BUT, CAT, DOG, DDT, KID, MOM, MUD, PET, RAT, RYE, TUB, TWO, WIG, YES and ZOO.

GOP and DEM are considered potentially objectionable, presumably because of their political connotations. And I, O and Q are out because they could be mistaken by police as the numbers 1 and 0.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lake Stevens resident Rick Trout shows a Feb. 2020 photo of the rising lake level in front of his home after a storm. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)
Some Lake Stevens homeowners now must buy flood insurance

Updated FEMA maps show some lakeside homes now sit in a designated flood hazard area, due to a warming climate.

Voyager Middle School.
Shooting threat at Mukilteo schools was a joke, student says

Four threats of violence in 48 hours were reported at Snohomish County schools in the wake of a shooting at a Michigan high school.

Girl, 1, dies from gunshot wound near Granite Falls

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deputies were investigating the weapons assault report Saturday night.

Prosecuting attorney, Taryn Jones gives the state's opening statement to start the trial of Ryan Leenders for first-degree murder Friday morning at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse on December 3, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Trial opens for Everett man charged with killing party guest

A defense attorney claimed Ryan Leenders mistook a vape pen for a gun when he shot William Harper, who was not armed.

‘Prolonged neglect’: Darrington woman charged with starving horses

After a months-long investigation, the woman is accused of neglecting her animals.

State officials confirm first 3 cases of omicron variant

The cases were found in Thurston, Pierce and King counties, according to the state Department of Health.

Preston "Buddy" Dwoskin served as the head referee at the inaugural Buddy Bowl football game two years ago at Everett Memorial Stadium. (Contributed photo) 20211203
Anti-bullying ‘Buddy Bowl’ game set for Saturday in Marysville

Preston Dwoskin, a public speaker with special needs, organized the football festivities. He would like you to be there.

Police: Student, 13, falsely accused classmate of making threat

The student alleged the classmate called to say there would be a shooting at Hidden River Middle School.

Man dies in 140-foot fall from Arlington cellphone tower

The man, in his 30s, fell about just after 1:30 p.m. Saturday while working.

Most Read