New Tennessee License Plates May Have Hidden Flaw

By Sarah Tate

February 10, 2022

Photo: Getty Images

The new Tennessee license plates continue to be rolled out across the state, but now there are concerns that they may have a hidden flaw.

After years of the same green license plates featuring a view of the mountains, Gov. Bill Lee announced the "Rate the Plates" campaign last year that called for Tennesseans to cast their vote to choose the next state license plate. In October, the winning plate was revealed, getting more than 300,000 votes to come out on top.

Gov. Lee introduced the new plate, which features a blue plate, white border and lettering and a tri-star emblem in the center. The new plates became available in January 2022.

According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, 400,000 new plates have been mailed out since January, with 5.5 million expected to be sent out by the end of the year. A little more than a month since rollout of the new plates, however, some state officials and law enforcement are asking if the plates are invisible on some license plate recognition (LPR) cameras, WKRN reports.

Tim Holman, an electrical engineer, has his own LPR system, similar to those used around the state, at his home that he checks after crimes occur on his street. He's even given police information about vehicles involved in criminal activity that passed by his cameras. Until the new Tennessee plates, he has never had a problem. However, when he checked his cameras last week after a few car burglaries, there was nothing on his system.

"I have had a lot of plates from a lot of different states go by my cameras over the years," he said, "and I've never seen this issue till this new plate came out this year."

After further investigating the issue, he found that the new plates are either blurry or invisible to his system at night but can be seen during the day. Holman believes there's not a good contrast between the letters and background on the plates, causing the cameras' infrared light to miss them at night. Bad weather, such as rain or snow, could also affect the readers.

"I think the dyes they are using to create the plates are not providing good contrast under infrared light," he said, "and so they both reflect about the same way and they blend into each other."

The Tennessee Department of Revenue issued a statement to WKRN regarding the concerns.

"We are aware of this issue, and we are engaging in conversations with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Safety to more fully understand it," the statement reads. "It would be premature to discuss any further actions we may take until we fully vet the concerns raised."

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