Wyomingites who renew their registration this year will get new license plates designed to keep vehicles from being misidentified in other states.

The new plate, which features Square Top Mountain, includes a change in how designations for passenger vehicles and trucks, as well as commercial and other vehicles, are identified. State law had to be altered to allow for the change.

WYDOT Manager of Motor Vehicle Services Debbie Lopez says in a statement that state law previously dictated plate designs had to include the county number, the Steamboat logo and the assigned vehicle number in that order.

Since trucks, passenger and commercial vehicles could essentially have the same numbers, out-of-state law enforcement and toll-road companies ran into issues in handling tickets and tolls.

Lopez says it wasn't uncommon for a Wyoming resident who owned a passenger vehicle to be sent a ticket or toll that shouldn't have been on their record. This would happen because all fees would register to passenger vehicles by default.

"It was only an out-of-state issue," Lopez says. "In-state law enforcement knew what to look for."

Lopez adds that the E-470 tolling authority didn't charge Wyoming drivers for a time until it could determine how to properly process information with WYDOT.

But, Lopez said, it simply wasn't practical for WYDOT to contact every law enforcement agency or toll company where Wyoming drivers traveled.

To remedy the issues, new Wyoming plates will include additional markings within the license plate numbers to indicate the vehicle type, helping ensure tickets and tolls go to the correct vehicle.

For example, the new truck plates will bear a "T" between the county number and the Steamboat logo.

The department has heard concern that folks who order prestige plates won't like the new markings, but Lopez says, "We must do what's best for the general public."

Embossed plates are an exception. Letter designations wouldn't fit on the options plates, which are available for an extra $50.

New prestige plates will now bear five characters instead of four to allow for more possible combinations. The font had to be changed to accommodate the extra character.

New plates will have additional security features, including a textured watermark of Steamboat, making it difficult for the plates to be produced by anyone but WYDOT.

The new license plate design has been available since February 2016 to folks who chose to pay two years' worth of registration in advance. Now, all plates issued will bear the new design, as the older designs will expire at the end of 2017.

By 2018, all Wyoming license plates should bear the new design.

The state is once again filling orders for specialty plates. WYDOT had to temporarily stop filling orders because anyone who ordered them would have to pay for new plates as soon as the new design came out, and Lope says the department didn't want owners to get plates that would only be valid for a few months.

The license plate design changes every eight years in accordance with state law, but Lopez says WYDOT must work hard to ensure the necessary plates can be produced in time to be distributed.

Manufacturing of the latest plates began in October 2013. WYDOT needed two years to produce the roughly 1.2 million plates needed for the initial roll-out of the new design.

Work on the next round of plates, which will be needed in 2025, will begin in 2021.

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