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License plates that mimic 'Scarlet Letter' have support

Many residents in Vancouver, Washington know about the story "The Scarlet Letter." But what many residents may not know is that the practice of shaming people for their actions -- which is central to "The Scarlet Letter" -- is starting to gain traction in the world of driving. Some states have passed, or are trying to pass, laws that require repeat DUI offenders and texting while driving offenders to have special license plates that alert drivers to their prior violations.

Though only four states have passed such laws, there is considerable support for these special license plate programs. A recent study found that there is significant support for licenses that would identify elderly drivers, novice drivers, DUI offenders and texting offenders.

The study did have a couple of wrinkles, though. The first is that elderly drivers were, understandably, not in favor of license plates that would identify elderly drivers (though surprisingly young drivers were not adverse to license plates that identify novice drivers). The other wrinkle is that younger drivers were slightly less in support of license plates that identify texting drivers than other people who were surveyed.

While the idea seems like a novel and possibly effective approach to preventing car accidents, there is a fundamental aspect to these license plates that inhibit their ability to prevent wrecks: drivers would have to look at them. Inherently these license plates actually pull the focus of other drivers off of the road. The ingenuity is appreciated, but hopefully in the coming years we will have more effective and practical ways of preventing car accidents.

Source: FOX Business, "Survey: Most Support 'Tattletale' Plates," Karen Aho, CarInsurance.com, April 8, 2014

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