The Automobile Association of South Africa has said that the country needs a clear national policy on vehicle number plate standards. The call comes in the wake of numerous complaints from AA members about the Free State’s policy on number plates, as well as government proposals for Gauteng to adopt a similar policy.
“The Free State government requires that number plates be renewed every five years, regardless of their actual condition,” said AASA Head of Public Affairs, Rob Handfield - Jones. “The AA believes this is an unreasonable requirement. We communicated our concerns to the Free State authorities some three months ago, but have yet to receive a response.”
Handfield - Jones said that the cost of renewing number plates which were still in acceptable condition was an unnecessary burden on vehicle owners. He said that the AA had suggested to the Free State authorities that the five-yearly mandatory replacement of number plates should be replaced with a five-yearly inspection, with replacement only in cases where the condition of number plates was unacceptable. “The inspection would be quick and simple, and proof of inspection would be by way of a tamper-proof sticker affixed to the number plate,” he said. “This would serve the original intent of the regulation - that all cars have legible number plates in good condition - without imposing undue financial burdens on motorists,” he added.
He said that Gauteng and other provinces should not adopt mandatory number plate replacement without considering the financial impact on motorists. The AA estimated that replacing the registration plates on all vehicles in Gauteng would represent a combined additional cost to the province’s vehicle owners exceeding R370 million every five years. The AA also questioned whether such a system would offer a return on the money vehicle owners would be forced to spend, and said the only beneficiaries would be number plate suppliers.
“The AA is not aware of any research which shows that poorly-maintained number plates could be costing Gauteng R370 million in crashes or crime every five years,” said Handfield - Jones. “We are concerned that this proposal would enrich a single business sector without providing a corresponding benefit to society as a whole,” he added. “The AA feels that a new policy should be formulated to re-align the vastly divergent standards for number plates across the provinces into one uniform and effective national standard,” he concluded.