Electronic license plate ads in Calif.: A new kind of distracted driving?

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A new kind of distracted driving: Electronic license plate adsRemember those walking billboards -- the guy carrying a sign urging you to "Eat at Joe's?" Put a California spin on that -- which is to say put it on our cars and make it flashing neon -- and you have the latest idea to come out of the Golden State as a means of ridding itself of a $19 billion deficit.

The state Legislature is considering allowing the state to research the use of electronic license plates. When a driver stops for more than four seconds, which on California freeways is a given, their license plate would begin flashing an ad. The measure's sponsor would like us to believe these ads would be endorsements of good causes -- save the whales, go green, keep an eye out for a missing kid.

But we know better, don't we? It's going to be "Eat at Joe's" all over again, only in neon flashes as you sit trapped behind a driver in traffic for hours. Road rage, here we come.

Democrat Senator Curren Price of Los Angeles, the bill's sponsor, says California would be the first state to implement the technology if the state DMV recommends the use of the plates. Other states are exploring something similar. The state would make money by interested advertisers. Drivers would merely be the conduits.

Smart Plate, a San Francisco-based company, is developing a digital electronic license plate but hasn't reached the production stage yet. The company's CEO, M. Conrad Jordan, says the plates could also be used to broadcast a driver's personalized message -- like allegiance to a sports team. Equally annoying, I think.
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