Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have tried unsuccessfully for some time now to find out from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles whether any license plate recycling programs exist in the area. If Northern Virginia does not have such a program, does the District or Maryland?

Thank you very much for your assistance, both in this matter and in all of the useful information you provide weekly. Your column is a must-read for me every Thursday!

Clara Ohr


I am inferring from your letter that you wish to recycle your own license plates. If so, that would not be a good idea. Virginia law requires that you return unneeded license plates to your DMV branch.

You don't want them floating around where they might be used by a car thief. I get sad letters about that problem from people who have donated vehicles to charity and have neglected to remove and turn in their license plates.

P.S. The Virginia DMV does recycle license plates, according to spokeswoman Pam Goheen.

Put On That Plate

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid does not have any place to attach a front plate. What am I to expect from the traffic police?

Lauren Merritt


A fine of $250 per citation. Plus, if you park in the District, the city's parking control aides will write you up in a heartbeat for failure to display a front plate if you live in a state that requires one.

Virginia, Maryland and the District require license plates front and rear. It's the law. And it's your responsibility to see that plates are mounted in front. They don't have to be positioned dead center, but they have to be in front. There is no license plate fairy to mount front plates or grant exemptions for some vehicles.

I wouldn't accept a new or used vehicle that didn't have mounted license plate frames, front and rear, and at least temporary license plates in them. I'd write that into the sales contract and make the local dealer install them. It's illegal to drive off their lot without front tags.

If you already have a car without front plates, take the problem to your mechanic, pronto.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.