Many UK drivers not in the know over number plate laws

calendar Published on: Monday, 16th December 2019 | female icon Author: Rebecca Taylor

There are strict rules in the UK when it comes to displaying number plates on vehicles. This is to ensure that registrations are legible to police officers at all times and can be seen by automatic number plate recognition cameras. Failing to follow these regulations can lead to a £1,000 fine and an MOT failure.

But how many motorists are aware of these rules - and the penalties they could face for flouting them? To find out how clued up drivers are on this important topic, we conducted a survey of 1,000 individuals. Here’s what we discovered…

Modified Colour

Number plates displayed on the front of vehicles must feature black characters on a white background, while at the back they must have black characters on a yellow background. White was chosen as a background colour because it provides the greatest colour contrast, while yellow provides the second greatest contrast. The plates are different colours so that motorists can easily tell which way a vehicle is facing, and therefore whether it’s likely to be moving towards or away from them.

While the majority of people we polled were aware that having the wrong colours on number plates can lead to a fine, nearly a third (30 per cent) didn’t know this.

Alternative Font

‘Charles Wright’ is the prescribed font for UK number plates. The characters have to be 79mm tall and, except for the number 1 and letter I, they must be 50mm wide. The thickness of the black print has to be 14mm, and there must be a space of 11mm between each character. The space between the age identifier and the random letters has to be 33mm, and the margins at the sides, top and bottom of plates must be 11mm.

Although the precise details of this required font may not be common knowledge among motorists, most drivers are aware that deviating from the standard format can get them in trouble with the law. However, 28 per cent of those we surveyed didn’t know that this could land them with a fine.

Patterned Background

Having a patterned background on a number plate might seem like a good way to add some flair and personality to a car, but in fact this is a no-no under the regulations. Because this can obscure the number and letters, making registrations more difficult to read, patterned backgrounds are prohibited. Just over a quarter of the people we surveyed weren’t aware that having a patterned background on their plates could see them hit with a fine.

Dirty Number Plate

There’s no law stating that drivers have to wash their cars, but if number plates become too dirty to read, drivers can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Dirt from the road surfaces is often kicked up by car tyres, splattering the back of vehicles. This is especially the case during the winter months, when roads are more likely to be covered in grit, mud, sleet and snow. If this dirt sticks to number plates and makes them illegible, drivers can be fined for failing to display their registrations clearly.

More than three-quarters of the people we polled knew this, but 23 per cent were out of the loop on this driving law. 

Making sure you’re up to speed on the rules surrounding number plates can save you from a potentially costly fine, and ensure you don’t fail your MOT on this simple point.