Car vanity plates up 45 percent in 5 years

More Alaskans look to express themselves with catchy licenses

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

ANCHORAGE - No one's ever been able to guess commuter Melinda Jacobson's license plate: VLYCLS.

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"They think it has something to do with vinyl, and they think it's maybe like a fetish thing or something," Jacobson supposed. (Have you guessed it yet? Keep reading.)

Every year, Alaskans have more and more vanity plates to puzzle over. The number grew 45 percent between 2001 and 2006.

One out of every 17 cars on the road has a personalized plate, and nearly one in 10 motorcycles.

Many plates, like VLYCLS, are six-letter mysteries for other drivers. Sometimes the answer is obvious. HWNGRL tells us the owner went to the University of Hawaii, while 2RED4U graces a crimson Cadillac.

Sometimes it's not so clear.

Motorists assume Peggy McBride's plate, DARTS, belongs to some barroom marksman. Case closed.

Really, she's director of an a capella women's chorus. Her plate is performer-speak for "Dressed And Ready To Sing."

Division of Motor Vehicles employees say the ability to order vanity plates online may have helped boost the numbers and even DMV registrar Carl Springer has one on his passenger van: BKIND.

Springer inherited it from his wife's late grandmother, who was known in Fairbanks for adopting stray cats, he said.

To get your own vanity plate you can fill out a form at the DMV, listing your top three choices, or head to the division Web site and immediately see whether the plate you want is already taken. Or if it's just too naughty for the road.

The state has an ever-expanding database of words and letter combinations that are off limits.

"We call it the no-no list," said DMV administrative manager Stacy Oates.

After checking requests against the list, a committee reviews each would-be vanity plate to make sure there's nothing fishy or the plate doesn't say something nasty if read backward in a rearview mirror. Still, potentially offensive plates sometimes make it through.

Other plates look naughty, but they're really someone's last name. Remember that if you see TRAMP1 in the parking lot.

Vanity plates cost an additional $30 and can include two to six letters and numbers. Spaces are OK, but symbols aren't. In Alaska, prisoners don't make plates. They're ordered from an Oregon company and can take up to 12 weeks to arrive.

But what about Melinda Jacobson and the Buick with the VLYCLS plates? Would it help to know that Jacobson lives in the Mat-Su and took offense when locals started wearing "Proud to be Valley Trash" T-shirts?

Jacobson is simply standing up for her hometown of Wasilla.

VLYCLS "Valley Class."

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