PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Only six characters are allowed on Oregon license plates, but that doesn’t stop some people from coming up with inappropriate requests.
The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicle Services has had a custom license plate program for years and it’s up to them to prevent anything lewd, offensive or alarming from making its way onto the road.
“We Google things. We use Urban Dictionary. Slang changes a lot, so we need to make sure that some of the things that are run by our desk don’t violate these very basic rules that have been in place for decades,” explained David House, spokesperson for the Oregon DMV.
He said the DMV has a system that automatically filters out inappropriate vanity license plate requests. It also blocks anything that’s been denied in past years. Additionally, employees at the DMV take a look at every request to ensure it’s safe to be approved.
In the application for a custom Oregon license plate, the DMV says it will deny any combination of letters or numbers that may be “objectionable,” meaning it refers to intimate body parts or sexual or excretory functions; refers in an offensive manner to a person or class of persons on the basis of race, color, gender, ethnic heritage national origin, or another characteristic; suggests the vehicle is an official vehicle of a public agency when it is not; refers to illegal acts; or refers to alcoholic beverages, controlled substances or paraphernalia associated with alcohol or controlled substances.
House said the DMV will also deny anything that’s negative toward a religious group. However, positive religious messages are allowed.
Some of the more tame requests made in 2021 include SHRMS, M3RLOT, BUUURP, ST0UTS and T00TZ. Overall, 293 different combinations of characters were denied in 2021. Oregon DMV does not have a way to keep track of how often each combination of characters was requested. The agency receives about 10,000 custom requests each year.
Occasionally, House said, something will slip through the cracks.
“Maybe once or twice a year another Oregon resident will alert us and complain about a plate configuration. Often you know, it’s something that is a new slang that’s been on a plate for a long time,” he said.
When that happens, the DMV will contact the driver and let them know their custom plate is being taken away.
WCMH in Ohio recently reported there were several requests denied in 2021 where people requested negative messages about President Joe Biden. House said in Oregon, people can put negative messages directed at politicians on their license plates, as long as it fits in six characters and does not include anything that alludes to profanity. He said politicians are considered public figures and are open to more criticism.
When it comes down to it, House said there’s a simple way to think about what’s allowed on a license plate.
“What words can you and can you not say on television? What do you avoid? It’s a very, very close alignment. You don’t want your child to say, ‘Hey, Mom, hey, Dad. What does this mean?’” he said.
Oregonians can find the application for a custom license plate on the Oregon DMV’s website. There is an additional fee for a customized license plate.
Editor’s Note: The full list of vanity license plates denied in 2021 contains language that is offensive and inappropriate.
Click here to read the list of 2021 denied vanity license plates.