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Tinted license plate covers not legal

I saw a person driving a crossover vehicle with tinted license plate covers. When I was close to the vehicle at a stop light, I could read the license plate letters and numbers. But once the vehicle took off and was a little way from me, I could no longer read the plate. Is this kind of plate cover legal? It seems like the person was trying to obscure the license plate. The person also had darkly tinted windows, and I couldn’t see the driver. Pretty shady, if you ask me.

— James, Medford

Having a license plate cover that obscures the plate is in fact illegal in Oregon and many other states.

In Oregon, a license plate is considered to have been illegally altered if it’s been obscured in any manner, including by any material or covering placed on, over or in front of the plate that alters the appearance of the plate.

Obscuring your license plate with a tinted cover, also called a smoked cover, is a Class B traffic violation that carries a $265 fine.

Some people have gotten tickets even with clear license plate covers that became dirty, cloudy or obscured in other ways.

As for why someone would use a tinted license plate cover, some erroneously believe the tinting will keep them safe from photo enforced cameras that catch speeding drivers and people running red lights. Others think they look cool, especially if they are going for the overall tinted look with tinted windows.

In Oregon, tinting is allowed on the top six inches of windshields for all vehicles.

Sedans can have tinting on front side, back side and rear windows if at least 35% of the light can get through.

The 35%-or-more rule also applies to the front side windows of SUVs and vans. But because those vehicles don’t have trunks where people can hide their belongings, any level of dark tinting can be used on back side and rear windows.

Applying illegal window tinting or driving a vehicle with illegally tinted windows are both Class B traffic violations.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.