A while back I was driving my wife’s Toyota with license plate number “KI6YQ”. As far as I knew I was carefully observing the laws of the state of California but the red and blue lights of a local police car came on behind me and I pulled over.
With my driver’s license in my left hand which rested with my right hand on top of the steering wheel I waited until the officer approached the open window. His first words were not asking me for my license and registration but he asked me if my vehicle was properly registered. The officer said he was unable to find the license number in the data base when he ran it. I assured him it was properly registered and that he needed to look again under code H because it was a ham radio plate. This was not the first time I had run into this problem. The officer did not think that was the problem but apparently wondering why he could not find the plates in the data base he let me go.
Ham radio license plates have been issued in the state of California long before the personalized plates program was in existence. It was a lot of fun before the personalized plates because when those of us who had ham plates would purchase fuel, which in those days was pumped by an attendant, and the station attendant took the credit card to run the information he would walk to the front of the vehicle to get the license number, part of the required information. The looks on the faces of some of those attendants was worth the cost of the fuel, which by then was about 10 cents per gallon. I have even been asked if I worked for the government or if I was a CIA agent or something like that. That part of the fun with personalized plates is gone because in the state of California, and I think all other states but Oregon, we pump our own fuel and run our own credit cards. Not only that but people who don’t know what they are just think they are personalized plates in fact I have had people look at my plates and ask me what does WA6OHP mean?
When the state of California started the personalized plates they were going to integrate the amateur radio plates into the program and charge extra then $25 a year for the privilege of having them. It was only because the amateurs were willing to protest and show the value of ham radio communications in times of emergency that the state relented and no extra charge would be imposed beyond a small retooling cost when the plates are first issued.
It seems recently hams who were applying for new call letter plates were being issued plates with an extra space in them appearing just after the number. For example my wife’s car would have been issued, if she was applying for a new plate, KI6 YQ instead of KI6YQ. Again protest was made.
It seems that the DMV had put a space in the data base so as to distinguish the amateur radio plates from the vanity plates and thus it was necessary to place the space on the plates to agree with the data base. This may have been the reason the officer pulled me over and could not find the plate in the data base because the vehicle’s plate did not have a space in it. These two classes of plates have existed for over 30 years with no problem so why now? The answer, as far as the DMV was concerned, was simple. If the hams would just change their plates to vanity plates and pay the yearly charge which is now over $40 a year we could have the plates without the space.
With some assistance from legislators the DMV has now said they will remove the space from both the data base and the new license plates being issued and thanks to hams who were willing to become involved the ham radio plates were saved again.
Could it be that the state was just trying to make a little extra money? How could I think such evil? They would never do something like that would they?
Closing note: This did not just affect the hams in California because I assure you every state in the Union was watching to see how it went. Every ham in the US with call letter plates could have been affected and as far as that goes every country where call plates are issued could have followed suit.
If you don’t like what they are doing you can fight city hall. Too many people just roll over and take it.