On August 17, 2013, Michael Bonanomi, a wonderful and amazing friend, brother and son, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street in Los Angeles. The person who hit and killed him simply sped away. While there were five witnesses and several surveillance videos of Michael’s tragic death, none were able to identify the car that killed Michael because it had only temporary dealership paper plates. Quite simply, if a license plate had been on the car, the person that killed Michael and cowardly drove away would have been caught.
Each year, approximately 1.8 million new vehicles are purchased in California and driven off dealership lots without a license plate. A small portion of used vehicles are also sold by independent dealerships without license plates. A permanent license plate is usually mailed to the registered owner within about three weeks, but during this period the vehicle can be driven without license plates.
While license plates are required to be installed “upon receipt” or within 90 days, whichever is sooner, some vehicle owners drive their vehicles without plates for months, or even years. This poses a risk to public safety, allowing motorists to avoid detection in criminal activity, hit and run crimes, and traffic and toll violations.
California’s electronic toll payment collection system — FasTrak® — relies upon a photo of a vehicle’s license plate for enforcement. In the San Francisco Bay Area, drivers without plates evaded almost $8 million in tolls on the region’s eight toll bridges in fiscal year 2012-13. Southern California toll roads and express lanes lost almost $5 million, for a total statewide loss of over $12 million.
This month, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin will introduce to the California State Assembly AB 2197, a bill that would require all cars sold by a new or used car dealer to leave the lot with a temporary license plate that includes a license number. The temporary plates would feature a registered license plate number, which would allow newly sold cars to be identified just like any other car with a permanent, metal license plate. The bill would prevent cars without permanent license plates from escaping accidents without being identified and from running through toll booths without paying, which costs California millions of dollars a year. Cars involved in abductions could also be more easily identified, leading to more effective Amber Alerts. The bill would also allow police and highway patrol officers to run a car’s temporary license plate number when pulling a car over, and to know whether the driver of the vehicle presents a risk to them.
There is no reasonable opposition to AB 2197. The improved public safety and increased revenue to California vastly outweighs the negligible cost and effort to implement the program. The temporary license plate program will utilize the Business Partner Automation Program already used by dealers. As a result, the cost of each temporary license plate will be minimal, and dealers will merely be required to include the temporary license plate number with the registration information they already send to the DMW when they sell a car. California is one of few states that do not require temporary license plates. AB 2197 will remedy that. To learn more about AB 2197, please go to:
To show your support for AB 2197 and tell the California legislature how important it is that the bill pass:
1. Sign the petition;
2. Pass the petition on to someone else; and
3. When you sign the petition, please share why this bill is important to you.
AB 2197 will not bring back Michael or catch his killer, but it will stop other drivers in the future from cowardly running from the scene of an accident.