Florida ready to let you vote on new license plate designs

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauNovember 16, 2012 

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has designed four new license tags, with sleek, smooth surfaces, better readability, and seven characters instead of the traditional six.

As for the plates' additional details, state officials want you to decide.

Florida is setting up a website — Vote4FloridaTag.com — so drivers can pick which plate they prefer. The website will go live for voting Nov. 26 to Dec. 14.

"We've found out people are really passionate about their license plates," said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, spokeswoman for the department.

"We've gotten phone calls and letters, both to our agency and the Governor's Office. We wanted to give people an opportunity to weigh in."

A 20-person committee of law enforcement workers and state officials considered dozens of design choices. The four finalists have a citrus flair, with lime green fringe and a leafy Florida orange.

This is the state's first major step toward a redesign since elected officials, in October, protested a proposal by Highway Safety Chief Julie Jones to outsource some of the tags' distribution. Jones was poised to ask the state for $24 million to jumpstart the project, but the unexpected opposition prompted her to delay.

Release of the new plates is not expected until at least 2014.

But the change is needed, Olsen-Doolan said.

There are now so many plates on the road, Florida is in danger of running out of character combinations. And the new tags will be more modern, with characters that are flat, rather than raised, so that cameras at toll booths and intersections can read them more easily.

"We looked at best practices around the country," Olsen-Doolan said. "The law enforcement and public safety aspect of it is our first consideration."

Chuck Westphal, 54, a Lake Panasoffkee resident who has collected license tags for 35 years, said he prefers the look of the more antique tags and doesn't care much for the smooth new designs that have surfaced around the country.

"A lot of states are going flat, but I'm not so sure about that," he said, adding that he gets a new plate every two years for his Ford Windstar minivan. "It almost looks like something you'd find in a cereal box rather than something you'd see mounted on a car."

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