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New TN License Plates Prove Difficult for LPR Cameras to Read

The Tennessee license plate has a new, fresh look. It is navy blue with white lettering and features the Tri-Star emblem of the state flag.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue began distributing the new plates at the start of 2022 as Tennessee motorists completed their annual renewals and registered new vehicles. But the navy-blue background is making it difficult for some license plate reader (LPR) cameras to photograph the license plates’ characters at night.

What’s the Issue with the New Plate?

In February, state troopers conducted LPR testing with the navy-blue plates and found the new plates are reflective. Less sophisticated LPRs’ plate readings have been hit-or-miss, if not totally ineffective, at capturing them once night falls. More advanced LPRs, on the other hand, are still able to read the new plates. The inconsistencies with the plates’ readability depend on the technology.

As of early March, more than 725,000 new standard plates had already been issued to Tennessee drivers. The problem the state now faces is what to do about LPRs that can’t read them.

Law enforcement use LPRs to track cars linked to fugitives, kidnappings, theft, fleeing the scene of an accident, and other crimes.

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Updated LPRs Needed

The state has responded with a potential solution to the problem: Rather than reissue license plates with a lighter background, the state and its agencies using LPR cameras might be better served by updating any technology that is currently not-up-to-speed.

This is because the state also conducted LPR tests with TN specialty plates that were not the new design. Two LPR camera systems were able to read the specialty plates, but three other cameras did not see them.

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