Now that tolls are coming, should I put tinted covers over my license plates, or keep them on the dash and hide them when I pass the cameras? Or should I see if James Bond’s Aston Martin with its rotating plates is for sale so I can save money on tolls? —Camera Dodger
In case you missed it, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that will institute variable-rate tolls on sections of Interstates 5 and 205. That law passed in 2017, so I can understand if you’ve been hoping maybe everyone just forgot. Tolls really are coming, though—and much of their collection and enforcement will hinge on cameras taking pictures of license plates.
You’re hardly the first Oregonian to hear this news and start fantasizing about a foolproof method for evading tolls, Dodger. And folks in existing toll-road states have been doing it for years! Lucky for all of you, there’s no shortage of sketchy internet vendors eager to sell you a wide array of dubious crap to feed that fantasy.
Where to begin? There are Fresnel-lensed license plate shields that (supposedly) blur the numbers when viewed from an angle. There are shields, transparent to the eye, that are (possibly) opaque in the infrared range that (some) traffic cameras use. There are license plate frames with infrared LEDs that are invisible to you and me, but (allegedly) so blindingly bright to traffic cameras that they can’t take a clear picture.
There’s even an electric license plate flipper you can buy right now, today, that does that James Bond trick you love, switching from one set of plates to another at the touch of a button while you drive. And unlike Bond’s version, this one doesn’t require cutting a hole in your trunk. (Suck it, Q!)
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, all this stuff is illegal. (I’m still racking my brain for a legit use for a license-plate flipper.) Making your tags unreadable by any method is a $265 ticket—and unless your name is Bond, displaying tags that don’t match your car will cost more or a lot more, depending on how you got them.
You can try all this stuff (the fact that Amazon has to claim those infrared-LED license plate frames are merely illumination for folks with night-vision backup cameras suggests they might have potential), but you’ll probably just cost yourself more in fines than you could possibly save. I’m no accountant, Dodger, but wouldn’t it be easier and more cost-effective to just pay the damned toll?
Questions? Send them to [email protected].