Austin, Texas—(WSJ.com)—Drivers who want to attract attention to themselves on city streets are increasingly asking for license plates with a bit more personality, new research finds.
The new findings, which come at a time when more than 80% of Texas cities are considering or implementing laws to make them more attractive to drivers, were part of a nationwide study of license plate designs, which include a wide variety of license plates.
“We thought we had found a really good way to show some personality on the plates,” said David Hargrove, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Transportation Institute.
“It’s a pretty clever way to get attention.”
The researchers analyzed 1,100 licensed plates in the cities of Austin, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Austin, Tex., as well as cities in New York City and San Diego.
The research, conducted in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation, was published online in the Journal of Traffic Engineering on Tuesday.
The findings suggest that license plates can be more expressive than most people would like to think.
“The plates are more of a statement than a sign,” Hargrotve said.
“They’re designed to stand out from the crowd and show people that they are a part of the community.”
“If they have the right message, then they’re going to be a great vehicle for social engagement,” he added.
The study found that license plate plates with an urban theme, with an “X” for urban, and a border between the two themes, all came from the same source.
The urban license plates had a wide range of options.
In Austin, the most common option was a cityscape with a city street and an arrow pointing to a city center.
The border with a U.S. flag and an urban flag, with a black border, was more popular in Houston, the study found.
In San Antonio, the top three options were a city skyline with an arrow on top and a city with an X in the middle.
The “X”-shaped cityscape option had a higher popularity rate than the border with the U.A. flag.
In Austin, license plates were more likely to have a U-shaped border than an arrow.
The city with a border and the U-shape came in at the top of the list, followed by a city in the U of A and an “L.”
The most popular license plates in Austin included the one that had an “M” and a “M.”
That was followed by an “S” and the letter “R,” with the other options ranging from an “I” to “R.”
The license plate with a “L” had the most popular option.
The top two licenses had “T” and “E” designs, and the “S,” “W” and one of the “H” designs.
In the San Diego area, license plate design had a lower popularity rate.
The most common license plate in the city of Los Angeles was a “W,” followed by “T,” “L,” “S”, “U” and an X. The other options were “R” and two “T’s.”
In San Diego, the design with a cross-shaped city and an U-like border was the most prominent, with the most frequent options being an “R”, “S”-like border and an E-like design.
Hargrotreve said the license plates are becoming more popular because they can be personalized, and people are starting to ask questions about their own personal preferences.
The study also found that the top choice was a small, round plate that is a mix of an urban and suburban design.
In San Diego County, the “N” design was the top option, followed closely by a smaller, round “O” design.
“These plates are really unique, because they’re not just just an urban plate,” said Robert G. Lips, director for the transportation institute and an assistant professor at the university.
“I think that this is a good time to think about what these plates might mean for drivers in the future.”
In the study, drivers who drove in the top 10% of cities that have license plate options on them had a slightly higher chance of getting a license plate.
For the top 25% of the cities, the chances of getting the top license plate were 2.3 times higher.
In the other 25%, the odds were 1.4 times higher for drivers.
“When drivers want to convey some individuality and make a statement, the license plate is the way to do it,” Harsha Singh, associate director of research at the Transportation Institute, said in a statement.