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Number Plates (Vic)


Victoria introduced vehicle registration “number plates” in 1910. The primary purpose of number plates is identification, to give each vehicle a unique combination of characteristics in case of a road accident or traffic rule breaches. The police use number plates to trace stolen vehicles and issue speeding and red light infringements. Achieving this purpose is only possible if the number plates on vehicles are up to date, visible and decipherable to patrol officers and cameras. All resident drivers in the state must register their vehicle and display current and clearly legible registration plates. These rules and others that apply to the use of number plates in Victoria are contained in the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic). The road rules and regulations that pertain to the ownership and display of number plates in Victoria are outlined below.

How To Install Number Plates

Legally, registration number plates in Victoria must be prominently displayed to ensure that the characters are visible from every direction and from a 20m distance. The plates need to be mounted upright 1.3m from the ground at the front and rear of a vehicle and at the rear of a trailer or motorcycle.

The registered vehicle owner is legally responsible for the condition and readability of the number plate. The plate must be free of any tint, cover or reflective surface that could interfere with a plate reading camera or device. The plates need to be visible even at night, so at least one white light must be fitted to the rear of the vehicle highlighting the plate. The registered owner can lose demerit points and incur fines for infringements of these road rules.

A plate must be replaced if it is no longer in good condition. A plate will generally last for ten years unless it the vehicle involved in an accident. When the plate is no longer in a good state of repair, the owner can exchange the plate for an identical combination or have new standard plates issued with different characters. The owner has a responsibility to regularly check whether the plate is legible and replace it immediately. This is essential as a highway patrol officer or another police officer may randomly conduct a check on the legibility of a plate.

An owner needs to make a report to the police if a vehicle’s number plates are stolen or an owner has evidence to suggest that the plate has been cloned. The owner can then visit a VicRoads Customer Centre with proof of identity to obtain replacement plates. General issue number plates that are stolen will be replaced with a new combination. Unless the owner follows the notification process, they run the risk of becoming the subject of police enquiry or receiving infringement notices incurred by someone using the fraudulent plates.

Obstructions

Mounting something on the back of a vehicle can obstruct the number plate and make it difficult to identify the registration. Deliberately blocking the plates to prevent identification is not permitted. If plates are inadvertently blocked, such as by a trailer, then the trailer must be registered and display its own plate, or the owner can attach an accessory number plate. VicRoads also issues bike rack number plates that can be attached to the object obstructing the view of the rear number plate.

It is an offence under the road safety regulations to display a plate that imitates a VicRoads plate, even if the plate is a custom replication of an actual number plate issued to the registered owner.

Custom And Special Interest Number Plates Victoria

VicRoads offers standard number plates and custom and special interest plates. Personalised custom plates are a unique character combination that holds a personal meaning to the registered owner. A special interest plate represents a group or special interest, such as indigenous culture or regional plates.

State transport authorities prohibit personalised number plates that may be interpreted as offensive or liable to promote illegal behaviour such as speeding. Drivers are encouraged to choose character combinations that are in line with road safety rules and community standards. While VicRoads has the authority to order a driver to surrender an offensive plate, it is possible to appeal this decision. For example, a driver recently had to surrender his plates with the combination “WEPN”, which was seen as unacceptable incitement to violence. Following a public backlash, VicRoads returned the plates to the driver.

Buying And Selling Custom Number Plates In Victoria

The cost of a custom number plate in Victoria depends on the type of design and whether the plates are purchased directly from VicRoads or from another driver or dealer. Custom plates start from $495, but a sought-after plate might sell at auction for thousands of dollars. A driver is able to sell a custom plate in Victoria as long as they complete a Transfer of Rights form so that the plates are no longer registered to the original owner.

Armstrong Legal has a team of specialist traffic lawyers who can assist you with any questions about any aspect of Victorian road rules, traffic infringement notices and licence suspension. Please contact or call 1300 038 223 for help with this or any other legal matter.

This article was written by Dr Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.

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