POLICE officers are reminding drivers to keep their number plates clean after stopping a car with an “invisible” rear plate.

The seasonal reminder comes as there is more dirt from leaves, mud and grit on the roads.

Richmondshire Neighbourhood Policing Team said they were alarmed to find one vehicle with a number plate that was so filthy, not a single digit was visible. They were on routine patrols when they pulled the vehicle over.

Inspector Martin Metcalfe, of Richmondshire Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “It’s that time of year when we see more and more vehicle registration plates that are totally obscured.

"So this is a gentle reminder to please check your lights and number plates are clean before you set off.” 

Drivers can be given a verbal warning and told to wipe their plate clean. But sometimes the digits are so badly obscured that a warning is not appropriate and they are reported for the offence.

Insp Metcalfe added: “This one was totally invisible and we see others like this too. It’s not crime of the century, I agree. And before anyone says it, yes we do have better things to do.

“I’d rather people kept their plates readable than we had to spend valuable time stopping and dealing with them. But we can’t turn a blind eye if your number plate is this dirty.”  

While it is not an offence to have a dirty vehicle, it is an offence to have an obscured registration plate or one that is not easily distinguishable.

There are a few good reasons for this. Firstly, the obvious one is police need to be able to read your plate to check if your insurance, tax and MOT are in order.

Secondly, it could be used in crime, or is much harder to find if it is stolen.

One recent example of this was when a vehicle was taken from the Melsonby area of Richmondshire and as a result of being able to track the registration plate quickly, police recovered the vehicle in the Cleveland area and returned it to the owner.

The maximum penalty for having an obscured registration plate or one that is not easily distinguishable is up to £1,000.

Inspector Metcalfe said: “All we’re asking people to do is keep their number plates clean - it only takes a few seconds before you set off and further checks will be ongoing while we’re on patrol.”