NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee lawmakers are raising new questions about issues with the state’s new license plates.
News 2 first reported in early February about problems some License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras are having with seeing the new dark blue plates at night. LPR cameras have played a critical role in AMBER Alert situations, tracking fugitives, and finding stolen vehicles. Law enforcement agencies say they do not use the cameras for traffic enforcement.
Tennessee Department of Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano appeared before the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Monday, March 14. During the meeting, Rep. Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) asked Gerregano about the LPR issues and for an update on rectifying the situation.
“It’s a nighttime issue,” Gerragano responded. “All of the readers, to our knowledge, read the plates during the day. But there are some camera models that are currently unable – or having difficulty – reading those at night.”
The commissioner added there are a variety of LPR vendors with a range of different cameras and that the Department of Revenue is working with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to evaluate the matter. That work was underway three weeks ago. Gerregano said he felt they were close to having “some direction.”
News 2 worked with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department to test the ongoing problem in a story that aired March 1, driving a pickup with the new dark blue license plate past an LPR camera several times. Images provided by WCSO show its camera, manufactured by Flock Safety, captured the outline of the truck, but the license plate was washed out and unreadable.
Flock Safety has said the new dark blue tags have a different reflectivity than previous plates and attempts are being made to adjust the software.
In Monday’s meeting, Rep. Patsy Hazelwood (R-Signal Mountain) and chair of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, followed up saying, “So, I guess some of the options would be to reissue plates that would change – and another option might be just to make sure that the readers are upgraded so that they can read our plates.”
Gerregano replied, “I think one of the things we’ve learned is that, with the colored plates, there are – there may not be a lot we can do short of going back to the white plates, you know, with black letters – and I don’t necessarily think states broadly can be restricted to that.”
Hazelwood followed up, “So, I guess some of the concern would be – as time is passing more and more of those plates every month are getting – out there on vehicles as people are renewing their registration. So, we’ll look forward to some direction in terms of a solution for that.”
In an email sent Tuesday afternoon, a Department of Revenue spokesperson said the state is not considering a change to a white license plate at this time. As of early March, 725,000 of the new blue plates had been distributed across Tennessee.