Armed with slang dictionaries and a state statute, Betsy Kluesner sits in judgment over requests for personalized license plates.
If her reference books and sixth sense to spot bad taste fail her, she will sometimes hold the application up to a mirror to see if the combination of letters is backward to the naked eye but revealing through a rear view mirror."We deny about two or three out of 100 requests," the supervisor with the Division of Motor Vehicles said, noting the rejections are too offensive to print in a newspaper.
Despite her efforts, some "no-nos" get by Kluesner and her supervisors. But motorists will likely spot the offending plate and complain. Last October, the division recalled a plate stamped with a racial slur in Spanish.
Business has slowed somewhat for the division the past few months, however, as motorists have awaited the recent legislative approval of a new - and more expensive - seven-character vanity plate, which will become available July 1.A few are already out because the State Tax Commission included a fee schedule for the plates in last year's appropriations bill. The commission halted production, however, when lawmakers protested that the change should be done by amending the law not tacking a new fee schedule onto another bill.
The Legislature amended the law and a personalized 7-character plate will now cost $50 - the previous price was $30 - in addition to the $18 registration fee - and the annual renewal fee has been raised to $10, on top of the regular renewal fee of $12.
Special group license plates that identify a specific organization will also be available for the same $50 fee. Those qualifying for a group plate include: Pearl Harbor survivors, Purple Heart award recipients, former prisoners of war, National Guard members, handicapped people, licensed amateur radio operators, antique vehicles, horseless carriages, farm vehicles and organizations that make a significant contribution to Utah.
Although the plates won't be released until mid-summer, the division can accept and process applications before then, director Rick Leimbach said.
And based on the popularity of six-character plates, applications should soon flood in for the plate with room for an extra letter or number - even though it will cost $20 more. Kluesner said she has received a lot of calls from people asking when they should send in their applications for the new plate.
The possibilities for motorists to make a statement will be greater with seven spaces. But Kluesner has been impressed with the ingenuity of those who have managed with just six characters. One motorists, for example, inadvertently predicted the future: On Hoyt's desk is a replacement request for a crumpled and bent plate stamped with the word "CRASH."
But of the 10,000 vanity plates in use, most of the requests identify the individual, such as a name or profession, or his or her vehicle in some way.
Above Hoyt's desk is a copy of the plate on a Volkswagon Beetle somewhere in Utah that says "Bug Off."
Had the plate not been for a Volkswagon, Kluesner could have probably rejected the request for being offensive or in bad taste, which state law prohibits.
"We try to prevent complaints, but sometimes people read more into it" than is intended, Leimbach said.
Other restrictions are that the request must be unique and not already in use, and the combination of letters and numbers must be easy for law enforcement officials to identify. For example, you can't substitute the letter "l" with number "1" to get around a request already taken.