Problem on the road: Local driving instructor documents plateless drivers

Traffic and Roads

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Driving around New Mexico, it usually does not take long to spot one or even several cars on the road without license plates. One local driving instructor has certainly noticed. He’s been documenting it each time he is able to do it safely.

Judah Maddry said it is frustrating to see people driving without a license plate day after day. New Mexico State Police said with so many other things going on in Albuquerque, they do not have the resources to keep up with the problem.

Maddry said he is tired of watching cars drive around Albuquerque with no plates. “I will see plateless cars every single day,” Maddry said.

The driving instructor spends 20 hours a week on the road with students and said he is noticing more plateless cars. “It has gotten to the point where we have actually made a game out of it,” Maddry said. “We’ll see how many plateless cars we can count in a one-hour drive-time, and the current record is six.”

NMSP said they are not focusing on pulling over every car that does not have a plate. That is because they say the majority of people driving around without plates aren’t criminals, and frequently, they have no idea their plates are gone. “Oftentimes, people are genuinely surprised for us to stop and tell them ‘you don’t have a plate on your car’ and that’s the first they’ve learned of it,” Sgt. Kurtis Ward said.

NMSP said many drivers without plates, got the plates stolen from them. NMSP said there has been an increase in this in recent years as auto crime has increased. Criminals will steal a car, ditch those tags, then go steal new tags and put them on the stolen vehicle to throw police off, resulting in tons of cars around town without plates by no fault of their own. “I think it’s more likely that it’s your everyday citizen that’s not aware of the situation, or they are aware of the situation, and they’re genuinely trying to work on it,” Ward said.

While NMSP said they do not have the time or resources to pull over every car without a plate, Maddry believes there needs to be more enforcement on this issue. “For the sake of my students, turning these new drivers loose on the roads with all these potentially uninsured, illegal drivers it’s a scary thought,” Maddry said.

NMSP said when the plateless cars actually are stolen, the criminals usually do other things to catch the police’s attention like driving aggressively, and those people are often involved in other types of crime. Police said they are lenient with drivers who have a good reason for being without plates.

NMSP said there has also been an increase in people with expired plates coming out of the pandemic since MVD offices were closed for some time, and people have been slow to renew their registration.

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