Sunday, December 3

Make Sure You Have a Working License Plate Light

I've seen plenty of cars with fog lights burned out, and a decent number with headlights out. Maybe fewer with brake lights out, but you get the picture. There's always a percentage of people with some kind of light out. I'm here to remind you about one little light that probably doesn't have a warning when it's out but will get you pulled over just as quickly by police officers looking to pull you over: the license plate light.

I was pulled over near Lawtey, Florida, after having cruised through town at the speed limit. I was in partial disbelief, figuring I'd been pulled over just one more time on trumped up allegations (once in Wyoming and once in Kansas). Nope, this one was real: burned out license plate lights. Still, it was just to see who was driving through town in an older car. Since I did not know whether the lights were out, and the officer seemed apprehensive to let me out of the car to see, I just sat there and waited. No ticket, but a warning to get the lights fixed.

I checked, and the lights are burned out, so I'll be fixing them. However, I also decided to confirm that the officer was warranted in pulling me over. According to Florida law, he was, and I could have been issued a citation. However, I did learn that only one of the two lights needs to be illuminated. That does not mean that I'll only be replacing one light, but it does mean that if any of you ever get pulled over for a single plate lamp being out, you can tell the officer to leave you alone. In the case I read, someone was convicted of drug charges because the initial stop was for a single burned out light, and that conviction was overturned. However, it also proves that the police aren't looking to write tickets just for license plate lighting--it's really about checking out what's visible in your car. For me, it was just my wife and kids.

After taking the trunk apart, I could not get a current to the license plate lights. I checked all fuses and other lights in the trunk area, and it seems that these lights just don't work. I was going to run a night light to a power inverter or run a USB-powered light, but then I found a truck bed lighting system that was on sale for $9 at Northern Tool. I do have to push the button and replace the batteries after maybe 24 hours of night driving, but it's the best lit license on the road right now.

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