Ads on California License Plates Universally Considered Bad Idea

By everyone except state legislators, that is

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None of us wants to be in the position of closing California’s $19 billion budget gap. That said, almost everyone agrees that there are better ways to go about it than creating computerized license plates and selling advertising on them. State lawmakers are of a different mind, however, having voted on Monday to conduct a feasibility study on the digital plates, which would theoretically switch to ads after cars were stopped for more than four seconds. What's wrong with the idea?

  • Makes Big-Brother Monitoring So Much Easier   Sara Libby of True/Slant raises a common concern: “In addition to concerns about driver distraction and safety hazards that the new ads might pose, some worry that digital plates could put the state on the road to a big-brother situation, with the government able to track a person's mileage or whether a person's insurance coverage has expired.”
  • Distraction Much?   The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle sarcastically points out an apparent hypocrisy. "One might think a Legislature that has been cracking down on cell phones, text messages and other driver distractions would be reluctant to put another flashing nuisance on the road, but this brilliant idea (SB1453) made it through the Senate on a 25-0 vote."
  • A Danger on the Roads  Jim Travers, writing on a blog for Consumer Reports, notes that the safety issues it would create would only make matters worse for California. "In a nation already overrun by advertising, and with distracted driving fatalities and injuries on the rise, it seems like a no-brainer to defeat such legislation that could only make our roads more dangerous. And California, as opponents to the ads point out, already has some of the worst traffic jams in the country. ... I understand that desperate times call for desperate measures, but it strikes me that this fanciful idea could create more problems than it solves."
  • Assertion of Big Government   Eric Peters of the conservative magazine American Spectator lays the mockery on thick. "It's yet another piece of pavement on the fascist highway we're headed down. Big Government and Big Business morphing into a single entity -- with the police power of Big Government used to extract profits for Big Business. Maybe we don't have the operatic elements of a strutting Il Duce (yet), but the economics are essentially identical."
  • Open to Hacking  Joseph Calamia at Discover magazine sees one step ahead. "Given that researchers have recently found ways to hack a car itself, hacking a digital license plate seems relatively easy. One wonders if the DMV, expected to weigh in on the bill in 2013, will consider not just the possible distractions to drivers, but also what it might be like to drive off into the California sunset with IAMDUM on your bumper." Jamie Block of Geekosystem shares this concern.
  • Just Annoying  The headline of Laura June's post at Engadget says it perfectly: "California considers electronic ads on license plates, we consider never moving there." She elaborates: "Driving in California could get a little more annoying in the coming days."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.