Associate Editor

The Inertia

Personalized license plates can be obnoxious. There’s nothing subtle about a blacked-out Dodge Challenger with spinning rims screaming down the freeway with a license plate that reads “DA MAN”. Of course, that’s the extreme. For most, the personalized license plate is an expression of self for the person driving the car in a sea of nondescript combinations of letters and numbers.

Now, though, thanks to the California Coastal Commission, that reflection of personality can incorporate your commitment to the coast and the ocean in the form of a whale tail license plate.

Not only are these puppies inspiring little pieces of art for the front and rear ends of your car, proceeds collected by the California Department of Motor Vehicles go directly to the Coastal Commission to support its numerous programs. These include: education, beach cleanups, coastal access, the Adopt A Beach program, and other restoration efforts. And if you have trouble remembering that, then be sure to learn the handy dance in the video.

Seemingly mundane, vanity license plates are a major source of revenue for the DMV. According to the Sacramento Bee, as of January 2013, the state recognized over 400,000 personalized plates. With a $50 initial fee and $40 annual renewal fee, that’s somewhere between $16 and $20 million per year. Some of the funds generated from the fees, as is the case with the Coastal Commission, are diverted to a diversity of causes. For instance, in 2014 the California Arts Council accounted 60% of its operating budget, about $3 million to the sale and renewal of its specialty plate. It stands to reason that the Coastal Commission could generate some serious support through this campaign.

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It’s a little ironic, though, given license plates are often found, among other trash, in shark’s stomachs.

 



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