Make sure you clean your plate

Lots of license plate questions came rolling in after our discussion with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles about sequences, distributions and the various types of plates, so we’re going to start off today with a few of those license plate questions.

Several readers want to know how to get rid of them: How do I properly dispose of license plates?

The DMV would prefer you bring them back to its office and that can be done by mailing them or dropping them off at any DMV counter. Technically the plates belong to the vehicle owner, so you can do with them what you wish. They are recyclable — that’s what the DMV does with them — or you can toss them. Tom Jacobs of the Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that you not throw them away, though, because they can end up in the wrong hands and you might be held responsible for what happens to them.

Tom asks: Do you know what the new alpha-numerical scheme will be when we run out of the current one, at 999ZZZ or 000ZZZ?

DMV spokesman Jacobs says we’re a few years away from having to worry about that, but it will end when the 999YZZ plate is issued; the plates started with 000AAA. The department is still examining what it will do when they do run out, but they will probably go with an alternating number-letter scheme like our neighbor to the west. The plates with Z as the first letter are reserved for dealerships.

Steve is minding his Os and Qs: I have been observing our plates for years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the letters I or O or Q I can understand why, but am I correct?

You are sort of correct, Steve. The DMV doesn’t issue license plates with those letters together because they can be difficult for a law enforcement officer to read; ones get mixed up with Is, Os with zeros, etc. However, drivers who have personalized plates can use these letters as long as it doesn’t cause confusion. This is what the law, listed under NAC 482.320, says: The letter O, the letter I and the letter Q must not be used alone but may be used with a combination of other letters and numbers if the combination does not create confusion between the letter O or Q and the number 0 or between the letter I and the number 1. Hmmm, and I thought state laws were supposed to be clear.

Now that we’ve touched on Os, Is and Qs, let’s hit the Us as in U-turn. This from Ellen in Henderson: I’m sometimes confused about whether it’s legal to make a U-turn from the far left lane at an intersection. What happens when there’s no U-turn sign at all, and the two left lanes show a left arrow and the word “only?” Is a U-turn legal?

Nevada is fairly permissive when it comes to U-turns, according to Las Vegas police officer Marcus Martin. U-turns are prohibited at intersections marked by signs that say such. State law says they are also prohibited at a crest or steep grade where visibility isn’t greater than 500 feet. Those areas are typically marked. They are also not allowed in business districts except at intersections, where the above guidelines are in play. At intersections with two left-turn lanes and a left-turn only arrow, U-turns can be made by the vehicle on the inside unless, of course, there is a sign prohibiting it.

Another note on U-turns: If you’re turning right at an intersection, it is your responsibility to yield to anyone making a U-turn. The reason, according to Martin, is that the motorist making the U-turn has the right-of-way because they are already traveling on the road the other motorist is entering.

We’re on a roll, so let’s do Ts with Stan, who questions his rights: Northbound Bowes Avenues ends as a T intersection with St. Rose Parkway near M Resort. There’s a sign at this intersection that says, “No turn on red.” This “no turn” rule baffles me because there’s an extremely long wait for the lights to change at this intersection, and St. Rose is four lanes, and it appears to be quite safe to turn right and merge into the flow of traffic.

Bob McKenzie of the Nevada Department of Transportation, which oversees St. Rose Parkway, went to check it out last week. This is what he had to say: There are two lanes turning left from Bowes to St. Rose and two turning right. For safety reasons, transportation experts prohibited right turns on red to alleviate confusion.

“Two vehicles turning simultaneously on red could cause a problem,” McKenzie said.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to Include your phone number.

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