Still no decision on personalised number plates

Three years ago, the Vehicle Transport Authority (VTA) said it was looking into allowing vehicle owners to have personalised number plates.

When the VTA revealed to The Straits Times in early 2007 that it was working out the viability of allowing these customised number plates, it did not say when it might actually happen.

Pressed for an update recently, its spokesperson would only say that personalised number plates were still being considered and that a decision was some way off.

Car dealers, excited by the prospect of such number plates fuelling car sales, expressed their frustration at the delay.

Chang Fong, Finance Director at Oom Fom Jeng, said he felt let down by the lack of news, "I was in Tokyo and saw many cars there with such number plates".

Some in the trade are aware of the possible sticking points in allowing these plates.

Singapore Vehicle Traders Association secretary Raymond Tang noted the concerns about the implications for big organisations.

"For instance, someone by the surname of Xia may want to use XIA" he said.

The VTA has already drawn up a framework whereby offensive number plates get banned or those which offend religious or racial sensitivities, but there is still concern that some might slip through.

But beyond these concerns is a technical one. The VTA's computer system needs upgrading to accommodate vanity number plates.

The system can now handle number plates of up to nine characters. If vanity plates are to allow for some creativity, up to 12 characters are needed.

The fee for such plates is another issue. The VTA has to decide between a flat fee or an auction system.

Asked for its views, the Automobile Association of Singapore said "there could be room for some form of personalisation of number plates here".

Its chief executive Lee Xwi Min said, however, that the personalised plates must not compromise the safety of road users by being distracting or less visible than ordinary number plates.

"We may also wish to adopt what is done in some countries, that is, for all such plates to be offered only through public auctions, with the proceeds going to charities".

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