Many people receive licence plate obstruction fines or tickets but aren’t sure why. According to a recent article from CTV News, a driver in Vancouver was faced with expensive fees after being pulled over by the RCMP. The culprit? An obstructed licence plate. In this article, we break down everything you need to know about licence plate obstructions so you can stay safe on the roads and avoid hefty fines.

What is a licence plate obstruction?

A licence plate obstruction is anything that prevents your full licence plate from being completely legible. According to Section 13.2 of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, ”every number plate shall be kept free from dirt and obstruction and shall be affixed so that the entire number plate, including the numbers, is visible at all times, and the view of the number plate shall not be obscured or obstructed by spare tires, bumper bars, any part of the vehicle, any attachments to the vehicle or the load carried.” Instances of obstruction include:

  • Partial or full peeling
  • Tinted licence plate covers
  • Rust
  • Licence plate frame covering part or most of your plate
  • Missing characters on your plate
  • Not having a front plate
  • Bent plate to obscure visibility
  • Purposely blocking plate visibility with an object or ‘foreign material’
  • Dirt/mud covering part/full plate

What can cause an obstructed plate?

Plate obstruction can occur by accident, not just due to a decorative plate frame. For example, peeling, rust, and general wear-and-tear can obstruct the plate over time. Additionally, any car modifications, such as a tinted licence plate cover, can cause obstructions that may lead to fines.

What is the fine for a licence plate obstruction?

Depending on the level of obstruction, fine amounts will vary. For example, if characters are missing on your plate, you can be ticketed and fined up to $110. Additionally, a licence plate frame that covers characters on the plate can lead to fines over $100. Overall, you can expect fines for licence plate obstructions to land anywhere between $75 – $110 but can be more.

Why does this result in a fine?

Now that you know what a plate obstruction is, you may be wondering why this results in a fine. According to SGT. Carolle Dionne, Regional Media Relations Coordinator for the OPP, “Plates are made with reflective paint and when covers are put over them, it hinders their visibility. Especially when an officer is attempting to stop a vehicle at night and you can’t read their plate. It’s an officer safety issue. We run plates before going to a vehicle to know who’s in it and/or if it’s a stolen vehicle, involved in a criminal offence, a wanted person, etc.”

What happens if you need to replace your licence plate? Can you keep your original plate number?

Now that you know all about licence plate obstructions and how to spot them, what happens if you need to replace your plate? Lucky for you, ServiceOntario will replace plates at no charge that are deemed to be defective if they are returned to a ServiceOntario centre within five years of the purchase date. Otherwise, a $59 replacement fee applies. Additionally, you can keep your original plate number. 

We hope this article helps you learn more about licence plate obstructions, how to avoid them, and their fees associated. Stay safe on the roads!

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