$464 fine threatens drivers who break this bizarre road rule

·News Reporter
·3-min read

You might not think that keeping your number plate clean is a high-priority task, but letting it get too dirty could land you in serious trouble.

Believe it or not, it is illegal to have a dirty number plate especially if the dirt and grime make it unreadable for authorities or road-based devices such as speed cameras.

With Australia's dusty roads, swarms of bugs and occasional wet weather all able to quickly make your licence plate dirty, it doesn’t take much for it to become difficult to read. So what could happen if you fail to clean it?

Dirty car bumper with mud splatters. Source: Getty Images
Dirt and bugs are common reasons for number plates becoming obscured. Source: Getty Images

Clear and visible

When you think about it, keeping your number plate clean is a no-brainer. After all, it is the primary way the authorities identify your vehicle no matter if it’s through speed cameras or a police checkpoint.

This is why states across Australia take this rule breach quite seriously.

Most states have made it very clear in their laws about number plates and their visibility. No matter where you are in Australia, you need to ensure that the plate itself is:

  • Visible from 20m away

  • Fixed in an upright position on the front and rear bumper

  • Displayed no higher than 1.3m from the ground

  • Free from any reflectors and tinting that could prevent it from being read by a device

These licensing rules are virtually the same for all cars across Australia no matter what state you are in however, different rules may apply to commercial vehicles, motorbikes and other forms of transport.

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An expensive cleaning job

Authorities have taken a tough stance against anyone caught driving with obscured or dirty licence plates anywhere in Australia. 

Some states have have introduced heavy fines and issue demerit points to anyone caught breaking laws around keeping your number plates clean. Here are the penalties you will cop for this offence in each state:

NSW: In New South Wales, drivers have hefty penalties for having an obscured number plate. They will not only get a $464 fine for their troubles but three demerit points added to their licence too.

VIC: Victorian drivers face tough penalties for dirty number plates too. They will be given three demerit points and a fine of $110 to deal with.

QLD: Drivers in Queensland with obscured number plates will face a fine of $347 but they will not be issued with any demerit points.

SA: In one of the harshest financial penalties for the offence, South Australian drivers face a fine of $602 if their licence plate is obscured in any way. However, drivers won’t be issued with any demerit points to their licence.

WA: In Western Australia, drivers face more lenient penalties for having dirty number plates. Drivers will find themselves issued with just a $100 fine for the offence.

TAS: Tasmanian drivers face a fine of $173 for failing to keep their number plates clean although they won’t be issued with any demerit points.

Man hosing down soapy car. Source: Getty Images
Always wash your car to ensure dirt and other muck don't obscure your number plate. Source: Getty Images

ACT: In Canberra drivers caught with obscured number plates face being given a $205 fine as well as having one demerit point added to their licence.

NT: In the Northern Territory, anyone caught driving with obscured number plates will face a fine of $70 by authorities.

So, the next time you go off-road or get caught in bad weather, you may want to think about giving your vehicle a good hose down or risk facing some severe penalties if the authorities decide to pull you over.

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