By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – When you see a car pass you with a front plate on it, what goes through your mind?

Perhaps you should be thinking – what a waste!

Nineteen states don’t require drivers to have a license plate on the front of their car. And Rich Carlson of Belmont, who’s been prodding Beacon Hill for years to reconsider the front-plate requirement, says there’s no reason why Massachusetts – which only started insisting on front plates in the mid-1980s – shouldn’t join them.

“You’ve seen 40 percent of the US figure that out, half of Canada, and they seem happy,” says Carlson. “In fact, Illinois hasn’t had front plates in 70 years.”

In a statement to WBZ, the Registry of Motor Vehicles insists: “Vehicles that have both front and rear license plates are more easily identifiable, which in certain instances helps to increase public safety.”

license Dropping Front Plate Requirement Could Save Mass. $2M

Massachusetts license plate (WBZ-TV)

But if you’re one of the estimated 900,000 drivers who still have one of the old green Massachusetts license plates, you are not required to carry a front plate. And Carlson claims the state could save nearly two million dollars a year by dropping the requirement, money that could be spent on high-tech plate-reading equipment favored by police or other public-safety priorities.

“You could add 10 or 12 extra squad cars, you could hire 10 to 12 new police officers,” says Carlson. “Personally, I’m gonna feel a lot safer with that type of equipment on the road rather than a front plate.”

But efforts to repeal the requirement have gone nowhere on Beacon Hill.

Do you see an example of wasteful spending – large or small, on behalf of local, state or federal government – that you’d like us to look into? Email me at, or reach out on Twitter, @kelleratlarge, and we’ll check it out.

Comments (2)
  1. Massachusetts actually required front plates for years until 1977, when the green plates were first issued. The green plates were the first series with only a rear plate. Illinois does require to plates:

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