State's number is up: New license plate system planned
Published 5:20 pm, Thursday, August 18, 2011
Every year, about 300,000 cars are registered in Connecticut, so it might come as no surprise that state is running out of number and letter combinations for the license plate alphanumeric system now used.
The passenger car plate number and letter sequence now in use, with three numbers followed by three letters, will run out of possible combinations in about 18 months state Deptartment of Motor Vehicles officials said.
Sometime in early 2013, the state's passenger car number plates -- that's their legal name -- will have two numbers, two letters and two numbers, with a dot between the two letters, or 33w.j77, for example, officials said.
The new numbering sequence will last about four years before it will have to be redesigned yet again, according to Ernie Bertothy, a spokesman for the DMV.
"We'll be putting in a first order of 1.2 million sets of plates soon with the new numbering sequence," Bertothy said. "Other orders will follow."
The current numbering system dates back to the early 1980s, and it consists of three numbers followed by three letters. Prior to that, marker plates had two letters followed by four numbers. In the 1950s, plates had two letters followed by three numbers. Before that, "the types numbering sequences we used gets a little murky," Bertothy said.
The letters "I" and "Q" aren't used on regular passenger plates, he said, although they can appear on vanity plates.
The plates are manufactured by the state Department of Corrections.
But since nearly a million combinations are used up every three years, the new scheme won't last very long at all, and it could have been designed to last much longer, according to Douglas Lyon, a computer science professor at Fairfield University.
"What they're doing is that they're kicking the can down the road -- and they're not kicking the can very far down the road at all," Lyon said. He notes that two numbers, two letters and two numbers only offers about 5.7 million combinations, or 10x10x24x24x10x10.
"Just adding one more number would increase your number of combinations ten-fold, or 57 million combinations," he said. "What I would do is to use six letters ---- that would give you over 191 million combinations with 24 letters in use."