Concerns over the province’s new blue licence plates continue to grow after the City of Toronto said its photo radar cameras are struggling to read some of the smaller font sizes on the plates, which have recently been under scrutiny for being hard to read in the dark.
City transportation spokesperson Hakeem Muhammad told Toronto Storeys that it is still “premature to make a conclusive assessment of the readability of the new blue licence plates” in images that have already been captured by ASE devices as city staff are still collecting data.
However, Muhammad said preliminary data suggests the smaller font size of the jurisdiction name (“Ontario”) on the new licence plates may pose “visibility challenges” for the ASE devices during both the day and night.
While not being able to read the plates poses a number of issues, if a police officer is unable to identify a vehicle’s rear licence plate, including the name of jurisdiction, they won’t be able to lay a charge, which is a requirement in order to be able to prosecute under the law, added Muhammad.
The new plates hit provincial streets on February 1. They are now blue with white lettering and numbers, as opposed to the blue numbers and letters on the old white plates.
Concerns began after Kingston police Sgt. Steve Koopman posted a photo he took of a car with the new licence plates in a parking lot over the weekend and asked, “Did anyone consult with police before designing and manufacturing the new Ontario licence plates? They’re virtually unreadable at night.”
Ok, this was taken off duty in a relatively well lit parking lot with my headlights on. Did anyone consult with police before designing and manufacturing the new Ontario licence plates? They’re virtuallly unreadable at night. pic.twitter.com/CoLxnp3iTQ
— Sgt Steve Koopman (@SgtKoopman) February 16, 2020
Other drivers have also taken to social media to share photos of their plate sightings, in which the letters and numbers appear to be illegible. Backlash about the unreadable plates has grown at such a rate, the issue is now being referred to as ‘PlateGate.’
Has anyone else noticed that the newly designed @ONgov license plates are totally unreadable from distance at night? Submitted screen grab taken from a 1080P dash camera. Could be an issue for GTA police forces in the future. pic.twitter.com/EN4hvoTYBL
— Andrew Collins (@ACollinsPhoto) February 15, 2020
Saw two of these today (in Whitby of course, because who else would be running out to get a @fordnation plate?) – and honestly couldn’t read them in broad daylight…. and we elected these people to make actual decisions about our lives #plategate pic.twitter.com/serwuM6LcF
— LKB (@missmontrealer) February 18, 2020
Muhammad says city staff have since reported their concerns to the Provincial government and both sides are currently in discussions to address the issue.
“The City will be exploring possible solutions with the ASE device vendor if the readability of the new licence plates is confirmed to be an issue,” said Muhammad.
But it’s not just the City of Toronto with concerns over the plates, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada are also calling on the provincial government for a review.
“The night-time visibility issues with the new licence plates being reported by police and the public is a very serious concern,” MADD Canada said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“The ability to clearly see the licence plates is obviously crucial if people need to call police to report suspected impaired drivers, or other dangerous drivers. MADD Canada joins those asking the Government of Ontario to review the visibility of these new plates at night.”
On Tuesday, Ontario’s minister of government and consumer services, Lisa Thompson, defended the new plates to reporters.
“The flaking and peeling Liberal plates were not an option to stick with. Ontarians deserve better and we’re delivering on that. The new plates for Ontario are durable and are absolutely reflecting the key information people need to see.”
She added the province has been “exhaustive” with its testing and that the new plates had been tested at night.
However, on Wednesday, Thompson told the Canadian Press that she had asked 3M Canada to investigate the visibility reports.