Got Dirty License Plates? Australian Police to Fine Drivers $448 for Not Washing Cars

March 22, 2019 Updated: March 27, 2019

Australian drivers had better reach for the hose and clean up their act. Or rather, their cars. The New South Wales Traffic and Highway Patrol released a statement on Facebook on Thursday, March 21, 2019, stating that owners who fail to wash their license plates could face hefty fines and points on their driving license.

Traffic and Highway Patrol Command – NSW Police Force 发布于 2019年3月20日周三 reported that the driver of a Toyota Prado was branded as the unlucky example. They received the stinging fine after neglecting to clean the license plate of the car, rendering the figures indecipherable.

The Traffic and Highway Patrol Command uploaded an incriminating photo: the car was clean (somebody earned their weekend pocket money), but the only thing clear about the license plate was that it was caked in dirt. The police couldn’t read the plate, and so issued a $448 (approx. US$318) fine on the spot. The defeated driver also got three demerit points on their license.

Illustration – Shutterstock | KOBRYN TARAS

There is already a legislative clause that states this rule: Clause 25 of the Regulation in the NSW Roads and Maritime Services dictates that plates must be “clear and clean,” not obscured or defaced, and legible.

The New South Wales Police took the opportunity to kill two birds with one Facebook post and uploaded an additional warning. License plates are not allowed to be hinged, either, they said. “They must be securely fixed to prevent them swinging out of sight.” And the penalty for non-compliance? An additional $448 and three demerit points.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Chadawan Heemsuhree

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was an immediate social media backlash as readers responded to the strictness of the criteria and the penalty. One Facebook user made a valid point about water restrictions: “We can’t wash ours on level 6 water restrictions,” they argued, adding, “You get fined for everything these days.”

Another user cited mitigating circumstances: “What if you live on a dirt road?” they said. “Half of the residents of the hawkesbury live on dirt roads!”

License plates must be “securely fixed to prevent them swinging out of sight” (Illustration – Pixabay | ctvgs)

However, many people recognized the inherent danger of driving around with illegible license plates and fully supported the penalties. “Good job making the country safe,” one reader contributed. Another even had a very pragmatic suggestion: “Just give the windscreen washers at the lights an extra dollar to do your plates.”

One user even implied that the fine wasn’t penalty enough. “Fine worthy,” they began, “and there should have been another one for load not being covered.”

The NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol are on the lookout for license plate misdemeanors (Illustration – Pixabay | diegoparra)

Some other states in Australia are already hitting harder. Car owners in South Australia could face fines of up to $474, but with an additional $60 levy. The Northern Territory currently maintains the least fiscally significant penalty: a mere $70 fine for an improperly displayed license plate.

The lesson learned? Don’t leave it too long between car washes! It could turn out to be expensive.


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