State considers eliminating renewal stickers on license plate

The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles is considering whether to eliminate the month and year registration renewal stickers that owners are required to put on state license plates.

In a request for information published early in September, the division issued an open call for pros and cons of the idea.

The agency, through a spokesperson, said it didn’t have much to share about the request at this point. “This is DMV exploring and trying to learn the landscape,” said Ken Truitt, a spokesperson for the Department of Administration, which manages the DMV.

Public notices show the division also investigating the possibility of self-service kiosks “in high-traffic areas,” a mobile application that would allow Alaskans to renew licenses and registration remotely, and an artificial intelligence chatbot to answer questions asked of the DMV.

The division “is trying to learn what’s available to help DMV modernize and become more digitally orientated,” Truitt said.

The moves follow the Legislature’s decision to eliminate the requirement that each vehicle carry two license plates. Only a rear license plate is now required.

At least three states have already eliminated the requirement that license plates carry stickers showing the expiration date of a vehicle’s registration.

New Jersey eliminated the requirement in 2004, followed by Connecticut in 2010 and Pennsylvania in 2016. All states still require vehicles to be re-registered on a regular basis — there’s just no physical sign that their registration is up to date.

There may be lessons for Alaska from Pennsylvania’s experience.

At the time Pennsylvania eliminated its stickering program, the state’s Department of Transportation claimed it would save $3.1 million per year in administration costs.

Three years later, a state legislator proposed reinstating the stickering requirement, noting that the number of vehicles registered in the state plunged after the requirement was eliminated. The plunge in registrations — possibly due to residents dodging the licensing requirement — cost the state $22 million in reduced fee collections in 2017 alone, the legislator said.

At a subsequent legislative hearing, a state official attributed the drop in registrations to normal fluctuations.

A state police official testified that as a result of the change, patrol officers began routinely running license plates through the state’s registration database, increasing the number of citations for unregistered vehicles.

The sticker reinstatement bill failed in Pennsylvania, and the state continues to operate without license plate stickers.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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