Frank from Golden writes, “What’s driving you crazy? What’s up with Tesla drivers not having a front license plate? Are they exempt from that requirement? I have never seen a Tesla with front plates!”
No, Frank, drivers of Teslas and Audis and Cadillacs and Lamborghinis and every other car in Colorado — fancy or not — are not exempt from the state requirement of having a front license plate. I too see so many Teslas and other newer vehicles of all makes without a front plate. After you read this story, you too will be noticing them too all over town.
After reading through several online Tesla blog sites and fan sites, it seems most drivers think their car looks better without the front plate, regardless if their state requires it or not. Another large group says they don’t want to go through the hassle of installing a special bracket to affix a front license plate to the car or don’t want to use the current stick-on bracket. A few owners claimed the front plate interfered with Tesla’s auto-pilot self-driving feature. Those fears are unfounded when the plate bracket is installed correctly as the front radar is located higher than the front plate bracket in the middle of the nose.
I stopped by the Tesla dealership in Park Meadows and the salesperson told me all new cars delivered to the store come with a front license plate holder in a bag in the trunk of the car. I was shown the plate holder. It has three, double sided adhesive strips that are said to be sticky enough to hold the bracket securely on the front of the vehicle. I was told by the sales person that after a vehicle is sold and before it is delivered to the customer, they install the Tesla provided adhesive bracket on the front of the car since Colorado state law requires a front plate. However, he said the owner is free to attempt to remove the front bracket but warned of the possibility of significant damage when removing the adhesive.
The person I spoke with could only speak for the showroom at Park Meadows, not for other Tesla dealerships in the state. That said, the day I drove to Park Meadows, I saw two new Teslas both with temporary tags and both without the hardware for a front plate. When I spoke with a new Tesla owner who purchased her car from the dealer in Littleton on South Broadway, she told me at delivery the dealer didn’t install the front bracket. Instead, the salesperson showed her the bracket that was stored in the front trunk (also known as the "frunk"). She said she just hasn’t gotten around to installing it but admitted she liked the look of the car more without the front plate.
There are 30 states plus Washington D.C. that require a front license plate. The front plate law in Colorado, and in many other states, is designed to allow law enforcement to identify a vehicle more easily. It also helps identify the vehicle for the Express Toll program in a toll lane or on the E-470 toll road.
According to Autolist.com, Washington state allows for a front plate exception if the vehicle does not have a place specifically built for a front plate.
The law in Colorado states, “The front license plate must be (A) DISPLAYED HORIZONTALLY ON THE FRONT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE IN THE LOCATION DESIGNATED BY THE MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURER; (B) MAINTAINED FREE FROM FOREIGN MATERIALS; AND (C) CLEARLY LEGIBLE.”
Referring to part A of the law, since there isn’t an obvious place designated by Tesla in the design of the front of their vehicles to attach the front plate, are Colorado Tesla owners exempt?
I posed that question to the bill sponsors, Sen. Ray Scott from District 7 and Sen. Jeff Bridges from District 26, who owns a Tesla Model Y. Sen. Bridges told me there are absolutely no exemptions from the front license plate requirement for Teslas or any high-end vehicle.
“I can assure you, it’s extremely easy to attach a front plate and the car still looks just as good," he said. "Tesla and other dealers are required to include a way to attach a front plate with every car sold. There are also numerous aftermarket accessories that attach securely in some other non-destructive way for anyone worried about the paint on their bumper. Colorado State Patrol says that front license plates are critical for their public safety work and they’ve been very successful in the legislature at maintaining that requirement. Bottom line, every car has to have a front plate, and Colorado makes it incredibly easy for folks to do that.”
The only front plate exemption for vehicles in Colorado provided in the law include a motorcycles, autocycles, or street rod vehicles.
I’ve reported on drivers who believe they can display their front plate on the dash or only if they get pulled over. That is not legal, but very few Tesla owners admit they were ever pulled over for or given a citation for not having a front plate. Officers I’ve talked to told me they aren’t too bothered by this problem but a missing front plate would give them probable cause to pull over the driver if they needed to. It is more likely to see a vehicle owner written a citation for not having a front plate if the offender is parked on a city street that is regularly patrolled, like downtown Denver. Several Tesla owners admitted to me if they park downtown or in Cherry Creek, they will stick the front plate on the car with easy on/off tape or park in a private lot where parking officers can’t write tickets.
The citation for driving without a front plate is a class B traffic infraction with a fine between $15 to $100.
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes , Stitcher , Spotify and Podbean.