May 20, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

DMV says FART license plate received a complaint, NC woman says

5 min read


Karly Sindy received a letter from the North Carolina DMV saying that someone complained about her license plate. Now, she’s making her case to keep it.

Karly Sindy

Update on Friday, Feb. 25: The “personalized text in question has been on our do not issue list for some time and was mistakenly approved in our Special Plate Unit. This plate has been recalled,” North Carolina’s DMV said in an email to McClatchy News. The original story is below:

The North Carolina agency that supplied a woman with her custom license plate is now considering whether it should be recalled.

On Feb. 24, Karly Sindy said in a Tweet that she received a letter from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles saying that someone complained about the text on her license plate — FARTSM.

Sindy, a molecular biologist turned software developer, lives in Asheville with her husband and 7-year-old daughter. She first got the custom license plate last October after submitting a request for it and not hearing back for a while.

“I remember getting an email being like ‘oh, it’s being reviewed,’” Sindy said, adding that she thought her application might get rejected. “They didn’t send me a follow-up email that it was approved — I just got it in the mail and I was so excited, I was jumping around.”

The SM at the end stands for Smoky Mountains, since Sindy has a special “Friends of the Smokies” license plate — one with a big black bear looking toward the custom text on it.

And until now, Sindy said, the plate has gotten generally positive responses from other people.

“A lot of times, I come up to my car and someone’s taking a picture of it,” Sindy said. “And people driving by will give me a huge thumbs-up. And I have a 7-year-old daughter and I pick her up at school — it’s the most popular truck, the fart truck.”

But in the letter, the DMV said that someone complained the plate was “offensive and poor taste” and asked her to explain what the personalized plate means to her. Once she submits documentation, the letter said, the DMV will review it and determine if the plate should be recalled. If the plate is recalled, or if she doesn’t respond within 30 days, the department will issue her a new, non-personalized one.

She thought about responding right away, but decided that she needed to make a case for herself first.

Sindy turned to social media for help. In a Reddit post, she asked others in Asheville to help her come up with reasons why the department should accept the plate.

“My license plate says FART and it makes me smile everyday and I just love it so much,” Sindy wrote in the post.

One commenter with the username VRpetparent came up with a creative solution — to say that the letters on the plate stand for “Friends of Asheville Recreational Trails,” and not for anything offensive.

Another commenter, ilikemrrogers, suggested that Sindy create a website for the organization “to make it legit.”

Sindy said she loved the idea, and soon, a website was born.

“We are a group of people who love hiking in and around Asheville,” the website says. “We love our community and love spending time in nature.”

Soon, people were telling Sindy that they would love to be a part of her newly-founded club.

“That’s when I was like ‘oh, we should meet! That would be great!’” Sindy said.

The website isn’t subtle about its cheeky intentions, and it invited readers to convene at a park on Feb. 24 “to take a picture with our group mascot the Friends of Asheville Recreational Trails truck. AKA FART Truck.”

“Whoever is interested and available, the Friends of Asheville Recreational Trails (FART for short) are going to meet at 5:30 p.m.,” Sindy wrote on Reddit. “We can take a picture with the FART truck and put it on the website so the DMV can see how legit we are. Who knows, maybe we’ll even check out a trail while we’re there.”

The group was passionate about Sindy’s cause — one person brought their own cardboard sign with the club’s name on it, and several people took photos next to the license plate. And there was even a former park ranger and two representatives of Friends of the Smokies in attendance, Sindy told McClatchy News.

She’s hopeful the group can continue to meet.

Sindy feels like she has a pretty strong case to present to the DMV, but said that even if the plate does get recalled, she’s thankful for the fun she got to have during the appeal process.

And she holds no hard feelings against whoever complained about the plate in the first place.

“I guess I would just want to be like, ‘look how joyful this is,’” Sindy said. “And if they’re like ‘well, that’s still gross,’ that’s OK.”

The North Carolina Department of Transportation doesn’t have any guidelines on its website on what it deems an appropriate plate or an offensive one — it only says to “show the world what you think, who you are or almost anything else.”

According to the form, the proceeds from personalized plates go toward several organizations, including the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Roadside Wildflower Planting Program, N.C. Travel and Tourism Promotion, and the Handicapped Access Guide to N.C.

Sindy’s plate isn’t the only one that has been considered problematic by a state agency. In July, a Tennessee woman sued the state’s Department of Revenue for revoking her license plate, which her lawyer said reflected a love of astronomy and gaming, McClatchy News reported.

This story was originally published February 24, 2022 5:51 PM.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.