Memo to state lawmakers: Tag me out - and save

HAVING YOUR SAY

July 07, 2008|By Alan Shecter

I am crossing the street, well within the hatched pedestrian pathway. Ahead, the green light that spells "WALK" verifies that I am proceeding in the right direction, in the right place, and at the right time.

Then I freeze, suddenly aware that my life will end in a fraction of a second. A zooming car has run through a red light and I am about to be hit hard, run over and killed.

One of my last thoughts will not be to note the license tag number of the speeding car as it crushes me. I can't read it fast enough, and I'm beyond caring.

So what's the point of having a license tag on the front of that car? Or, in fact, on the front of any car?

I suppose a meter maid saves a couple of steps when ticketing from the front of a vehicle, which is closer to the windshield. Is there any other advantage to having a front license tag? I don't think so.

Maryland is among the states that require a front license tag. I have calculated - all right, guessed - that it costs the state more than $2 million annually to make and distribute front tags, for no really good reason. That money could be far more effectively deployed to enhance public transportation in urban areas of the state, among other priorities.

Then there are the ecological costs of metal fabricating, paint-baking and energy usage that might be eliminated by simply halving the number of license tags that are currently produced.

In short, Maryland should stop requiring front license tags.

Maybe I can "sell" this view to the General Assembly. With no lobbyist to represent me, I'd ask for a mere 10 percent "cut" of the annual savings for, let's say, the first 10 years. That's only about $200,000 per year for a very sensible idea. From all I've read, the cash-strapped state could really use the remaining $1.8 million in savings.

Florida, with many more cars and loads more traffic, distributes only rear license tags. The same is true of our neighboring states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware. If I get hit by a speeding car in one of those places, no license tag imprint will be etched into some part of my anatomy. In Maryland, I'd get about six numbers and letters impressed deeply into my hide, and I wouldn't even get the $200,000 payment. Furthermore, once dead in Maryland, I would not be able to sue for monetary damages, even though the negligent street sign commanded me to "WALK." (No point suing the driver; he probably doesn't have auto insurance.)

I know that I should be more practical. I'll never get my $200,000 cut. I can't vow to stop crossing streets. Nor will I start wearing head-to-toe steel armor.

Being even more practical, I'm willing to settle for seeing Maryland save potentially millions of dollars each year by eliminating front license tags. How about it, state delegates and senators?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan Shector is a Baltimore developer and freelance writer

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