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Napa Police Department distracted driving campaign

Officer Josh O'Mary talks to a woman seen texting behind the wheel in early 2019.

The Napa Police Department is targeting drivers with altered, expired or counterfeit license plates.

A new state law that went into effect at the beginning of the year does away with generic paper plates and requires dealerships to issue personalized, temporary plates with a plate and vehicle identification number, among other things. Drivers have up to 90 days to swap the temporary plate for a metal one.

Now, Napa officers are looking for people who have expired temporary plates issued early this year or generic paper plates issued last year.

“There’s no excuse not to have plates on your vehicle,” said Traffic Officer Josh O’Mary.

Vehicles without plates make it harder for officers to identify stolen vehicles and tie vehicles to crimes, he said. Plate-less cars also make it easier for drivers to evade bridge tolls.

O’Mary said he’s stopped cars that people have owned for a year or two, but still don’t have plates.

The law requires drivers to replace temporary plates with permanent ones as soon as they are received in the mail. Anyone who has purchased a new car but hasn’t received plates from the Department of Motor Vehicles after 90 days should contact the dealership and DMV, he said.

What else are officers looking for?

Napa Police officers will also be looking to ensure cars have two plates, mounted horizontally. License plate frames can’t obstruct the state name or plate number.

License plate covers are prohibited, O’Mary said. Some people say they install clear or smoked out covers to prevent people from stealing their registration tags, but the covers can obstruct the license plate, he said.

O’Mary recommends that anyone who is worried about registration tag theft take a razorblade and cut an “X” into the tag. It won’t be visible from far away, but makes it harder for people to steal tags, he said.

Most license plate-related violations can be fixed and paid off with a $25 fine, he said.

People who seem to be violating the rules for nefarious reasons, can be fined up to $200. Drivers who obscure their license plate with a cover that makes it more difficult to see the plate from certain angles are fined $1,105, O’Mary said.

400 Napa drivers ticketed in May

In other traffic news, O’Mary said 400 tickets were issued last month. Nearly 140 of those tickets were for offenses related to last month’s traffic campaign to crack down on visual obstructions, such as tinted front windows or cracked windshields.

Officers also found 57 drivers who were unlicensed or suspended, and impounded 25 vehicles. Ten drivers under the influence were located and there were 48 collisions resulting in injury.

The department noticed a lower-than-usual number of hit-and-run collisions last month. Thirteen hit-and-runs were reported in May, compared to the 2018 average of 25 hit-and-runs per month.

Twenty-two hit-and-runs were reported in March and 28 hit-and-runs were reported in April. O’Mary said it remains to be seen whether May’s figures were a fluke, but he hoped that the lower figure was a result of the department’s monthly traffic safety campaigns.

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Public Safety Reporter

Courtney Teague is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She can be reached at 707-256-2221. You can follow her reporting on Twitter and Facebook, or send her anonymous tip at: tinyurl.com/anonymous-tipbox-courtney.