Vehicles using UK roads are identified with the DVLA registrations system. The registrations issued under the system have varied in form since its inception at the beginning of the 20th Century, but the basic elements have remained.
UK DVLA registrations consist of a string of numbers and letters. Early registrations consisted of a letter code to identify the area in which the registration was issued and a unique number to idetify the vehicle. All versions in recent decades have also included a code denoting the year of issue. For more information on the various forms the system has assumed over the years, please see our car registrations overview.
The transfer and display of vehicle registrations are pretty tightly regulated. Although one may still see number plates with incorrectly spaced characters, cartoon emblems and decorative lettering fonts, these will become fewer and fewer as the authorities become less tolerant of rule-breaking. For many reasons it is felt that the clear and correct display of car registrations is of great importance.
With the advent of congestion charges in cities and towns, the police experienced an increase in instances of number plates “cloning”, where vehicles display number plates stolen or reproduced from another vehicle. This obviously makes it difficult to track down drivers who evade payment. It is a ploy also used by drivers who habitually break speed limits and by criminals who wish to make detection harder. With the rising cost of fuel, fake or cloned plates are now being used increasingly often in “drive-offs” from petrol stations. Drivers fill their tanks and drive away without paying. Clearly, forecourt CCTV is of limited help if the cars it films are displaying fake plates rather than genuinely issued DVLA registrations.