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Would special license plates discourage drunk driving?

Michael Lopardi

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Would special license plates discourage drunk driving?

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Sep 23, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A license plate can tell you a lot about a driver.

In Ohio, for example, that could include a recent conviction for driving under the influence. It's hard to miss the bright yellow plates with red letters. Now a valley man wants to know why Nevada hasn't taken up a similar program.

"I think it would be a good idea for the state of Nevada, especially in Las Vegas," said Brian Longe.

Longe grew up in Ohio and moved to Las Vegas about a decade ago. He wants Nevada to use similar plates.

"It would make people think," said Longe. "It would be the repercussions. If I drive intoxicated, then I have to suffer with these plates for awhile."

The yellow tags in Ohio are used for DUI offenders who are driving with restrictions or have limited driving privileges. The plates are issued on a case-by-case basis depending on a judge's order, said Lindsey Bohrer, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. 

Ohio typically issues the plates to drivers with two DUI convictions within six years or a high blood alcohol content on the first offense, Bohrer said in an email. Offenders can return to regular plates when the restrictions expire.

Police made 14,809 arrests for DUI throughout Nevada in 2012, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.

Nevada lawmakers have not introduced any bills to create similar plates for the Silver State going back to 1999, said Kevin Malone, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

Sandy Heverly, executive director of the advocacy group Stop DUI, said a similar program was discussed about a decade ago but failed to pick up steam with lawmakers. 

"In our opinion, I don't know that they really make a difference in terms of safety," Heverly said.

While police in Ohio can pull over drivers who have the plates to check on their status, Heverly said she doesn't know if the public humiliation is enough to change a driver's behavior. Heverly believes ignition interlocks and individual driver assessments are likely more effective.

"I don't know that specialized plates - whether you want to call them zebra plates, whiskey plates, party plates, whatever the term might be - is going to actually save lives and that is what we're interested in," said Heverly.

As of 2012, states like Georgia and Minnesota use special plate numbers to identify drunk driving offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' website.

Heverly said she doesn't believe Nevada lawmakers will take up the issue again anytime soon unless something about the concept changes.

Longe is hoping to spark the discussion.

"I really think it would make them think twice about driving intoxicated," said Longe.
Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.