Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Temporary license plates
have a list of rules to fulfill

Question: I have a friend whose car was sideswiped, sustaining damage, by a hit-and-run car bearing a temporary tag and thus, with no license number that could be reported. During my daily commute to work I see many cars with temporary tags. There seems to be a lack of uniformity as to how the expiration dates on the tags are written: sometimes with the month and year only; sometimes with the day, month and year; and sometimes with no visible date at all. Of special concern are the tags that, according to the dates on them, have long expired. For example, I recently saw a tag on H-3 dated 12/15/01, and have seen a number of others almost this far out of date, yet the drivers seem to have little concern about driving on public roads. Aren't the police supposed to cite these drivers, and how do the police know when tags that show only the month and year, or contain no date, have expired? How does one report traffic violations involving cars with no license plates?

Answer: Temporary licenses denoting new vehicles are valid only for 30 days.

As noted in a previous Kokua Line column, new vehicles are registered through car dealerships. Thirty days is supposed to be more than ample time for the dealerships to obtain registration papers and license plates from the county motor vehicle offices and pass them on to new car buyers, according to an official with the city's Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division.

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes 286-53E, a dealer who sells a new motor vehicle to a person has to provide a temporary number plate, attached to the rear of the vehicle, and printed only with the following information:

1. A date that is 30 working days after the owner takes possession of the vehicle, "which date shall be placed in the middle of the temporary number plate in numbers not less than four inches in height;

2. The name and address of the new owner;

3. The name and address of the new motor vehicle dealer;

4. The serial number of the new motor vehicle; and

5. The date the new motor vehicle owner took possession of the vehicle.

Furthermore, "Any temporary number plate upon which is placed any drawings, pictures, or words other than what is required ... shall be invalid."

The information required by Nos. 3-5 is to be printed in the upper left corner of the temporary plate. The plate is valid through the date stipulated in No. 1.

The maximum fine for having an expired temporary plate is $500.

Enforcement rests with police.

As you noted, with only a temporary plate, it would be difficult to track down a vehicle involved in an offense.

"The only way is to call 911 immediately and an officer will attempt to find the alleged offending vehicle," said Honolulu police spokeswoman Michelle Yu.


To Mr. Pat Reardon who, on Saturday, Feb. 2, found my wallet on Waialae Avenue near 10th Avenue. Being a 16-year-old new driver, it was upsetting to find my wallet missing. While getting out of the car, I must have dropped my wallet on the road. Mr. Reardon was running with his children and just so happened to run on the road instead of the sidewalk, and there he saw my wallet. I got my wallet back, with much relief and the satisfaction that there are kind and honest people in Hawaii. -- Aaron Hoo

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