State Unveils New License Plate Design

Here’s your contribution (one of them, anyway) to the state budget crisis.

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The state's new design for its license plate, to be used beginning in May, 2010

The new state license plates have been unveiled. You’ll have to change your license plate when you renew your vehicle registration, starting in May, 2010. It’ll cost an extra $25 for the new plates.

The state says the current plates are losing their ability to reflect light, which makes it harder for police to get a license plate number when they need it. The Department of Transportation says plates begin to lose their reflectivity after about 5 years and the current plates have been in use for nearly 10 years.

Critics complain that the license plate change is really just a fundraiser for a state budget that remains billions of dollars out of balance.

This much is true, however: Issuing new plates to those with valid registrations will eventually make it easier for police to spot the thousands of drivers each day who drive on expired or suspended registrations, or with no insurance.

Some county clerks around the state have campaigned against the new plates and fees, including Oswego County Clerk (and county Republican Party chair) Geroge Williams. He’s running an online petition against the new plates at

We’ve e-mailed him a couple of questions about the petition drive and we’ll add his answers when we get them.

Counties get a small piece of the revenue when you renew your registration in person at one of the three DMV offices in Oswego County. They get nothing if you renew by mail or online. The county’s three DMV offices are located:

Oswego (East River Road), 349-8300, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
Fulton, (County Office Building, Rt. 481 S.) 591-9136, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
Pulaski (Broad Street), 298-6521, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.

The state’s press release announcing the new plates follows:

New Plate Will Improve Highway Safety and Generate Needed Revenue

New York State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee David J. Swarts today unveiled the “Empire Gold” license plate which will be issued to most vehicles registered in the state beginning in April, 2010.

“The bold colors of the new license plate reflect New York’s force and its resilience,” said Commissioner Swarts. “These new plates, in the official colors of the State of New York, will help maintain highway safety, reduce the number of unregistered and uninsured vehicles on our roads, and generate $129 million in General Fund revenue over two years, which will help address the State’s financial crisis.”

The new plate is gold in color with dark blue letters and numbers in the central part of the plate, separated by a small dark blue state silhouette. There is a dark blue banner across the length of the top of the plate, with “New York” printed in gold in the center. “Empire State” is in dark blue letters across the bottom.

State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt said, “License plates are a fundamental tool of law enforcement that has been enhanced in recent years through a variety of technologies that improve their readability, especially under low light conditions. The State Police has worked cooperatively with DMV to ensure that the new plates will continue to serve the law enforcement community effectively.”

Periodically re-issuing plates is important for overall safety, law enforcement and the general integrity of the plate. License plate visibility tends to decrease as license plates lose their reflectivity and become marred and damaged from use. The legibility and reflectivity of the current Empire plate, which was issued beginning in 2001, was only guaranteed for up to 5 years. Current plates will have been in use for 10-11 years by the time they are replaced by the new Empire Gold plates.

“This project will benefit law enforcement efforts, and therefore enhance public safety, in several ways,” said Denise E. O’Donnell, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety and Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. “For instance, nearly 300 police agencies in New York State are currently deploying approximately 500 computerized license plate readers (LPRs) that enable authorities to quickly identify vehicles that have been stolen or used in a crime. These new plates will ensure that the LPRs are as effective as possible.”

Periodic re-issuance also helps to ensure compliance with motor vehicle registration and insurance requirements. As new plates are issued, motorists that are driving with suspended or revoked registrations become more conspicuous.

“By helping to reduce the number of uninsured motorists, the new Empire Gold plates will help keep auto insurance costs down for all New Yorkers during these difficult economic times,” said New York State Superintendent of Insurance James J. Wrynn.

DMV will begin issuing the new plates for registration renewals that expire in May 2010. Customers renewing their vehicle registrations in person in a DMV office, over the phone, by mail or through the Internet, will receive their new Empire Gold plates in the mail. Customers completing an original over-the-counter registration transaction will receive their plates immediately. The replacement will take place as part of scheduled vehicle registration and renewal and will take two years to complete. There are currently 12 million registered vehicles in New York State.

A plate fee of $25.00 will be added to the registration renewal fee. Single plate registrations (e.g. motorcycles) will be charged a plate fee of $12.50. Motorists registered in the Passenger (PAS), Commercial (COM), Motorcycle (MOT) or Trailer (TRL) registration classes will have the option to keep their current plate number/letter combination. Those with vehicles registered in other classes may also have this option. The registration renewal invitation will tell motorists if this option is available. Those choosing to keep their current plate number/letter combination on the new Empire Gold plate will be required to pay a $20.00 fee. Those motorists holding a personalized plate will automatically be re-issued the same number/letter combination on their new plate. Because they currently pay an annual personalized plate fee, they will not be required to pay the $20.00 fee. Most plates with the New York skyline banner across the top of the plate will begin to be replaced by the new Empire Gold plate in April. Custom picture plates will be replaced at a later date. The DMV will also be electronically sharing updated plate number information with EZ-Pass so that motorists who participate in that program will not have to do so.

Additional information on the new license plates can be found by visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles website at