July 7, 2017

Numbers crunch: OBX license plates are out of space

Sometime in 2018 the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will run out of numbers for the OBX license plates.

By our calculations, that should be sometime in September or October of next year.

According to John Brockwell, NCDMV Communications Officer, through June of this year the OBX license plate numbers had reached 93,500.

“That means there’s 6,500 to go,” he said. Actually 6,499, but that’s quibbling.

The plates were first issued in December, 1999 with three numbers. Digits have been added through the years, but now there’s no more room on the plate.

No one knows what will happen when the owner of the car with license plate 99,999 walks out of the office in Manteo with the highest OBX license plate number that can be issued.

NCDMV doesn’t know, or if they do, they haven’t told anyone. “No decisions have been made about what to do next,” Brockwell said. “There are no plans right now.”

There are options, Brockwell said. “They may just put a letter at the end of the number.”

Have more OBX license plates been issued than expected? As it turns out, that’s not something the DMV addresses. “DMV does not determine the level of interest anticipated in special license plate designations,” Brockwell wrote in an e-mail.

The OBX tag, of course, represents the Outer Banks, and there is a legitimate question to be asked about how an area with around 37,000 to 38,000 permanent residents could have issued license plates two-and-a-half times greater than the entire population.

As it turns out, residency is not required to get an OBX license plate. “Anybody can get an OBX license plate,” Brockwell said. “They just have to come to Manteo to get it.

How we determined September or October of next year

From December of 1999 to June of 2017 is 212 months. Dividing 200 into 93,500 we get 441 license plates issued on average every month.

Subtracting 93,500 from 100,000 we get 6,500 license plate numbers remaining. Ok, it’s supposed to be 6,499.

Divide 6,500 by 441 and we get 14.7 months to go at the current rate of issuing new numbers, or one year and two to three months — September or October.

In theory, that means sometime in late August or September of 2018, North Carolina will have to decide what to do.
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