The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles' proposal for a new standard license plate. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine secretary of state's office

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I seem to recall quite a number of years ago (though I couldn’t find the exact year), a man in southern Maine attempted to cover “Vacationland” with a nearly identical (font, size and color) sticker that read “Taxationland.” He went to court, which ruled it was illegal to obscure or change any of the text on a Maine license plate. 

Fast forward to 2023, and the controversy over continuation of Maine’s plates bearing “Vacationland” continues. But what difference does it make? Mainers have continually and freely violated line four of MRSA 452, which states that license plates must be “Plainly visible and legible. Registration plates, including the numbers, letters and words, must always be plainly visible and legible.”

Yet many of Maine vehicles totally obscure “Vacationland” (and often, as well, the month and year registration expiration stickers) with license plate frames carrying a variety of messages and promoting causes, and no police agency — state, county or local — seems to take any notice of or exception to that violation of Maine’s motor vehicle statutes. Additionally, many license plates are further obscured by clear and smoked license plate covers that inherently obscure all of the information on the plates, even without a film of Maine Winter “road schmutz” further obscuring the plate(s). 

On a similar note, line one of MRSA 452, states “A registration plate must be attached to the front and the rear of each vehicle” (with just a few exceptions). There seems to be an increasing number of vehicles registered in Maine for which their drivers replace the mandated front plate with a wide variety of “non-legal” plates hawking motorcycle or other vehicle logos, the motorist’s favorite sports team, or other variations. How are those vehicles passing state inspections? 

So whether a Maine plate says “Vacationland,” “Dirigo,” “It Is What It Is” or any other sentiment, many Maine motorists will continue to obscure that script with the license plate frame of their (or their car dealer’s) choice. 

Michael Gleason