Oct 26, 2023 - Transit

Duplicate plate issues persist in Mass.

Illustration of a car windshield with a lot of parking tickets stuffed under the wipers.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

If you've ever gotten a ticket for a violation somewhere you've never been, you're not alone.

Driving the news: The Registry of Motor Vehicles has issued more than 161,000 license plates that have the same letter and number combinations, WCVB's Mike Beaudet reported.

  • These Massachusetts license plates have minute differences — like one being a commercial plate or vanity plate with stacked letters — but are so similar that local agencies have issued tickets to the wrong drivers.

Flashback: Drivers have complained for years about mistakenly issued tickets related to duplicate license plates.

The other side: The RMV has since acknowledged their existence and said it primarily happens with the addition of special plates "due to the limited character count for license plate numbers and letters," MassDOT spokesperson Jacquelyn Goddard said in an email.

  • In 2019, the RMV upgraded its software to prevent a duplicate plate number from entering the system.
  • But that doesn't help those who already have a plate that matches somebody else's.

Zoom in: Several drivers told WCVB they had wrongly received tickets from places they had never been, even after telling the RMV about the problem.

  • The RMV claims it never received complaints, per WCVB.

Pro tip: The RMV notes that parking apps used by vendors at lots owned by the MBTA, the city of Boston and other entities may ask for different vehicle information, Goddard said.

  • Drivers can lower the chances of a mixup if they can upload a photo of their plate, which reveals whether it's a special plate or other distinctions.

Steph's thought bubble: My partner got a ticket about a year ago for a violation in Boston — while he was working several towns north of here.

  • Now I'm wondering if he fell victim to the same problem.

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