If you like to stand out from the crowd and literally go to another dimension, then perhaps you have noticed that the number plates on some cars appear to be made from gel rather than the standard acrylic, and that the letters have a three-dimensional appearance. But are these gel number plates legal?
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is in charge of all things motoring in the UK, and as with everything the organisation deals with, it sets out strict criteria when it comes to displaying number plates. The guidelines are as follows:
The material from which the plates are made must be reflective, so it can clearly be seen in conditions of darkness or poor visibility.
The background must not have a pattern, to ensure the letters and numbers stand out enough to be read clearly, even at a brief glance.
The front plate has to consist of black characters on a white background.
On the rear, a vehicle should show a yellow plate with black characters on it.
There are additional rules regarding the size, spacing and style of the lettering. All number plates must conform to these standards, and it is worth noting that the criteria are extremely precise. The measurement of characters or spaces, for example, must be correct down to the last millimetre, and this is determined by when your vehicle had its number plates fitted.
Slightly different rules apply to older vehicles, but there are strict rules nonetheless. Vehicles made before 1973 can show “black and white” number plates if they wish. These consist of silver, white or grey characters on a black background. The lettering must still conform to the exact specifications of the DVLA in terms of spacing, size, and font, although the dimensions for these plates are slightly different to those for the modern white and yellow plates.
In addition to the DVLA rules, there exists a British Standard to set out exactly how the number plate should look. This insists that all number plates must be marked with the appropriate British Standard number, and there must be a way, such as a name or trademark, to identify the maker of the plates. The name and postcode of the supplier must also be on each plate.
The implications of the British Standard can affect the type of plates permitted, as they must meet certain standards in terms of visibility, reflectivity and strength. Therefore, if a gel number plate was not strong, reflective or visible enough to satisfy the British Standard, it would not be considered road legal.
Flags and identifiers
With all these rules about what you cannot have on a number plate, it might be refreshing to read about something that is actually permitted. Motorists can choose to have an optional national flag on their number plate if they want to, as long as it is correctly sized and placed.
Permitted flags are the Union Jack flag, St George’s cross for England, the Scottish Saltire or the Welsh dragon. The flag must be accompanied by one of these sets of identifying letters: GB, UK, ENG, SCO, CYM or WALES.
How to be certain
The best way to ensure you get roadworthy plates for your vehicle is to go to a registered number plate supplier; in fact the DVLA actually insists upon it, and they provide a list. You will need to show identification as well as the V5C when you order your plates.