Bike Rack Obscuring License Plate

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Benzo
Participant
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I’ve heard more anecdotal evidence of local police departments writing tickets to drivers with hitch mount bike racks that are blocking direct view of PA license plates. I also have a hitch rack which I prefer to leave on my vehicle most of the time, but I also don’t like getting a ticket on the rare occasion that I drive through upper saint clair or other areas where this seems to be selectively enforced.

I know some other states have a solution for this by allowing drivers to acquire a ‘3rd license plate’, I think it’s a third because many states require front and rear plates. The 3rd plate is a paper document, similar to a temporary license plate document, with the license plate number on it that you tape in your rear window when you are using the bike rack.

I see this as becoming more problematic as PA stops using registration stickers, automated parking enforcement with plate scanners is used more often, and there is more automated enforcement of tolls on the turnpike (in case it doesn’t read my ez pass).

Is there a similar solution for Pennsylvania? How can I legally use my hitch mount rack other than ignoring the issue and hoping I don’t get pulled over for this?

FWIW, I’ve already contacted yakima and they do not offer a plate holder for my hitch rack.

  • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by  Benzo.

Eric
Member
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I’ve never even thought of this before.  What is the evidence for traffic stops for this?  You’d figure that if you drew a Venn diagram of people who commit crimes and those with a bine rack obscuring part of the license plate, there wouldn’t be much overlap.

 

And what about people who pull a trailer?  In that case, the rear plate is completely obscured. Never heard of stops for that reason. In that case, the trailer has a separate plate from the car.


Eric
Member
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http://www.autoblog.com/2016/04/01/police-traffic-stops-obscured-license-plate/

MI supreme Court ok traffic stop for obscured plates. As far as I know no other related case law.


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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If you want to fabricate something to attach the plate to the bike rack, get in touch with me. I’m sure I could figure out something that would be very simple to make with my fabricating equipment. With a little creativity you could probably make the plate switch between the car and rack in under a minute, with no tools.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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Steven
Participant
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Could you mount the plate somewhere other than the rear bumper, 0r perhaps off to one side on the bumper? Title 75 section 1332(b) isn’t specific about where on the car a license plate goes:

It is unlawful to display on any vehicle a registration plate which:

(1)  is so dirty as to prevent the reading of the number or letters thereon at a reasonable distance;

(2)  is obscured in any manner which inhibits the proper operation of an automated red light enforcement system in place pursuant to section 3116 (relating to automated red light enforcement systems in first class cities) or 3117 (relating to automated red light enforcement systems in certain municipalities) or any other automated enforcement system authorized by this title or an electronic toll collection system as authorized under 74 Pa.C.S. § 8117 (relating to electronic toll collection);

(3)  is otherwise illegible at a reasonable distance or is obscured in any manner; or

(4)  is obscured, covered or otherwise obstructed in a manner which inhibits the visibility of the issuing jurisdiction at a reasonable distance.

From that, it seems you could mount it anywhere, so long as it’s not obscured, covered or obstructed.


Benzo
Participant
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@edronline – the only evidence i have is people in facebook groups i’m a member of saying they got a ticket with fine (not a warning) in upper saint claire, murrysville, and washington d.c.

Not the same person in each incident.

 


Eric
Member
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Certainly there are all types of laws on the books that municipalities could enforce to raise revenue.  If there’s a trend with one municipality then would be good to take it to the media.

The yinzer with a trailer/boat contingent is far greater than the guy with a bike rack, so my guess is that if you get the former angry the ticketing would stop.

It may also be worth these people going to court. If magistrates throw out the cases or reduce fines,etc, then police may stop writing them for bikes and trailers.

My guess is that these are bike rack hating cops. I’ve never heard of anyone hauling a trailer being pulled over for this.


Eric
Member
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You can get this and move it off the normal slot when using a bike rack. Though bikes obscure most of the back of the vehicle anyway.

https://www.amazon.com/Magnetic-License-Holder-Magnet-Forizzle/dp/B00M2AXBDY


zzwergel
Member
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Attaching the license plate to the bike frame with clamps should work. When the rack is not in use, attach the license plate to the back or the car with magnets.


salty
Participant
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Argh… yeah I always thought that was more of a theoretical problem than a real one.

One problem with all these solutions is you lose the license plate lighting, so if you’re out at night you could still be in trouble.  I used to have a cargo platform, with the bag on top it completely obscured the plate.  The platform had holes for mounting the plate but when I was using it I was often driving in the dark and it always worried me.

I did some searching for a battery powered plate light but never found anything, although you could probably rig up something that would work.  Hm, actually that was a few years ago and now it does look like you can buy such a thing, i.e. https://smile.amazon.com/Universal-Bolt-12-LED-License-Plate/dp/B0083Y0WL2


Eric
Member
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I saw a car today with a wheel chair platform on the back mounted to the receiver.  It looks like a 3 sided box, so there is a panel that comes up high and obscures the license plate. There are little slots cut into the metal to allow someone to see the license plate through the box, but it is still hard to read, and with the wheelchair loaded inside I bet the plate will be unreadable.

 

And I also bet this person has never been pulled over because the plate wasn’t visible.


jonawebb
Participant
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Your not supposed to have the plastic covers over the license plates, either.
As to whether anybody’s been stopped, as a cop told me in Ohio, “If you’re a fine upstanding citizen, we wouldn’t stop you, but if you’re driving around with your buddies with rap music blaring, yeah, you might get pulled over for that.”


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Oh, like this fine, upstanding citizen? Clouded over plate


Eric
Member
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Damn, I thought it was going to be Darlene.


The Iguana
Participant
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Last night I was stopped at the Waterfront for unsafe driving…there was some questionable confusion there…I was given a warning, but the officer said I was also in violation with my bike/rack obscuring my license–and it could have been added to my offenses.

If they were only so meticulous about the four foot rule.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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Did the cop imply that any bicycle on a rear rack would be in violation, obscuring your license plate? Or was there something about your setup that they didn’t like? If all rear racks have this problem, shouldn’t the police be talking to bike rack manufacturers or legislators, instead of taking it out on individual cyclists?


jonawebb
Participant
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Here’s a discussion from Michigan: bottom line is that it appears to be illegal to block the license plate in any way. Though you’ll probably get away with it unless the cop is annoyed with you for some other reason. License plate covers are illegal too, and how often do you see those?
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2016/09/ask_a_trooper_bike_rack_block.html


Benzo
Participant
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Yeah, just because I can get away with it most of the time, doesn’t mean I can get away with it all of the time. I don’t want to have to be ‘getting away with it’ at all. I just want to carry my bikes and drive 100% legal.  It looks like bike rack manufactures dropped the ball by not providing alternative plate mouunting options.

Kind of looks like custom mods are the only legal option. A trailer light kit with LEDs attached to rack or tailgate might be an option. Probably need to wire it up for power. Something like this: https://www.amazon.com/OLS-Trailer-Certified-Waterproof-Trailers/dp/B0722YLXBS/


jonawebb
Participant
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I think you can stick it in the rear window. PA law doesn’t say it has to be on the back, just that it has to be illuminated and more than 12 inches from the ground.

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