ANNAPOLIS – During a traffic stop, Anne Arundel Police Officer Thomas Jones couldn’t read the car’s license number because of a darkened plate cover.
And while Jones tried to get the number, two people got out of the car and fled the scene.
Jones told his story Wednesday to the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, in favor of a bill by freshman Del. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, to ban the sale and advertisement of license plate covers.
Kagan held a license plate cover in her hand as she told the committee that darkened covers make it difficult for police and witnesses to identify drivers.
The covers, she said, “have no purpose other than to obscure the driver’s license plate.” Banning them “will help to enhance the safety of Maryland’s roads,” she added.
Jones agreed, supporting the bill on behalf on the Anne Arundel Police Department and the Maryland Chief’s of Police.
“Often times our only lead is a license plate number,” he said.
Kagan called the covers “a new trend in the last few years.”
They are already illegal in Maryland, with violations carrying a $500 fine, but nonetheless available. Kagan found them for sale at a Trak Auto store near her home and in several catalogs. She noted a small label on the license cover she was holding that said “for off road use only.”
Kagan said her bill would not require catalogs to be reprinted. Instead, illegal items could not be shipped to Maryland addresses.
Many catalogs tell patrons to check local laws before purchasing an item, Kagan said, but that is rarely done.
Several lawmakers were concerned that police are not enforcing the existing law.
“I see them all the time and I don’t see that there’s any enforcement,” said Del. Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore, the committee chairman.
Del. Mary Conroy, D-Prince George’s, agreed. “Is this law going to help enforcement?” she asked.
Also supporting the bill were representatives of the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Department of Transportation and the Maryland Trooper’s Association.
There was no opposition. In other matters, the committee heard testimony on a bill that would require drivers to turn on their headlights while using their windshield wipers and a bill that would raise the speed limit on rural interstate highways to 65 miles per hour. -30-