By Jeff Girod
Besides helping to close the state’s $19.1 billion deficit, electronic license plates could streamline car-registration and quickly notify motorists of hazardous road conditions and Amber Alerts. Critics warn the digital ads could also distract drivers because, as studies have repeatedly shown, most drivers have the attention span of a, um . . . what were we talking about?
A golden retriever chasing a tennis ball is more focused than most California motorists. If a plastic bag blows across the freeway, drivers get distracted. If there’s a sunrise, drivers get distracted. If there’s a sunset, drivers get distracted. If there’s a billboard with boobs, drivers get distracted. If there’s another driver with boobs, drivers get distracted. If there’s two hills off to the side of the road that kind of resemble boobs, drivers get distracted . . . Heh, heh, heh, boobs.
I’ve been in gridlock traffic for hours on the 91 freeway and when I finally drove passed the “accident scene” it was nothing more than a broken sprinkler head harmlessly splashing water 10 yards away from the actual lane. In other parts of the country, this would be called a “fountain.” Here we call it a “Sig Alert.”
What do you think is going to happen if license plates have flashing advertisements featuring products other drivers might actually want to buy? Accidents alone will quadruple. Not to mention idiots who never quite grasp the concept that just because someone is digitally advertising something such as Budweiser on their license plate doesn’t mean the driver will actually be carrying a case of beer in his or her car. The potential for road rage and lawsuits for false advertising will be limitless.
Yes, digital license plates are a horrendously, colossally bad idea which could only be proposed by someone working in California government—and it’s why I support the proposal 100 percent. Make that 927.6 percent because, hell, nobody in California is very good at math.
We are in the midst of yet another fire season—meaning at any moment California could literally go up in flames. Taxes, unemployment, bankruptcies and home mortgage defaults are already at record levels. And the solution the good folks in Sacramento have come up with—the “magic bullet” that’s going to cure everything and turn California back into the picturesque postcard paradise tourists are going to flock back to—is digital license plates? Sure, I say. Why not? While we’re at it, let’s paste some of those kooky cartoon eyeballs onto pet rocks and start selling them at airports. How about some battery-powered, disco dancing, mini plastic palm trees? Let’s turn every government office into some tchotchke-laden Spencer’s Gifts full of snow globes, back scratchers and “Vote For Arnold” T-shirts. Pass the DMV eye test and get a novelty pair of giant sunglasses! We’re not a state anymore. We’re a card table at your local swap meet.
But what does it matter? Like a bad Tori Spelling boob job, there’s no going back to a more idyllic California. We don’t even know how to handle success anymore. Los Angeles wins an NBA title and Lakers fans celebrate by destroying half the city. Or three-quarters of the city. Who can tell? So much of L.A. already looks like the backdrop for a post-apocalyptic action movie (which is ironic because, thanks to California’s anti-business tax code, most Hollywood movies are actually filmed in Vancouver.)
And if you don’t like it, move to Canada—or Oregon or Hawaii or any other place with a functioning government and an actual state budget instead of a Magic 8-Ball and a get-rich scheme such as digital license plates.
And who knows? Maybe digital license plates will actually work. Then again, this is California. I give it a week before all the license plates are flashing 12:00 like an old VCR.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.