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Mich. terminates use of traditional blue license plate

May 25, 2006

Michiganians can say goodbye to their "Old Blue" license plates since the Secretary of State announced earlier this month that it will stop issuing it at the end of the year.

About 5.6 million motorists use the "Old Blue" license plate design, which was introduced in July 1982, according to the Secretary of State.

"The license plate has been around for roughly 24 years, and most states replace their plates within five to 10 years," said Kelly Chesney, spokesperson for the Secretary of State.

Having a reflective background on license plates will improve visibility on roadways and allow law enforcement officers to perform their public safety duties better.

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said in a written statement that she feels it's time to use newer technology to create the license plates.

"This change will also allow the state to use the same type of material for all of its license plates, which makes production more efficient," Land said in the statement.

Michigan is the only state in the nation that uses the costly and outdated process of applying finely ground glass beads to the characters on the license plate during production, Chesney said.

Small, glass beads that have the consistency of sand are sprinkled on the wet white paint on license plates to give them limited reflectivity.

As registrations expire, Michigan residents will be issued the new plates.

"From a public safety perspective, having license plates that are easier to read at night will assist law enforcement in keeping our streets safe," said state Rep. Philip LaJoy, R-Canton, in a written statement.

The design for the new license plate has not been finalized, but some designers feel a newer design could be distracting.

"(License plates) seem to function for their goal," said Chris Corneal, assistant professor of graphic design in the MSU Department of Art & Art History. "I have the very conservative, blue with white lettering one. Some of them can get pretty gaudy and pretty colorful. I felt it's distracting on the car ? the license plate is not there to decorate your automobile."

Within 12-18 months, all license plates should be converted to the new plates so that it's easier for police officers to detect unregistered vehicles, Chesney said.

"There are some individuals who don't have valid tabs or valid registration on their vehicle," Chesney said. "It will be easy to identify these people because they will have the old plate."

Chesney said the new license plates won't add any additional costs for motorists. When the motorist renews his or her tab, the new plate will be sent with the tab.

Recently issued plates, such as the agricultural heritage or veterans memorial plates, which already have a reflective white background will continue to be manufactured.

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