Driving in New York is stressful as it is, but the state is warning vehicle owners that if they aren't careful, they could end up paying for someone else's mistakes, too.

From winding roads to traffic cameras (find the comprehensive list of New York State Thruway cameras here), there's always a wrinkle to add into any commute. While New Yorkers can usually avoid the extra stress of a traffic ticket by simply obeying the rules of the road, there's an unfortunate loophole that may land drivers in hot water for something they had nothing to do with.

The New York DMV is warning drivers about the dangers of keeping old license plates (liveslow via Canva)
The New York DMV is warning drivers about the dangers of keeping old license plates (liveslow via Canva)

Why It's Important for New York Drivers to Destroy Old License Plates

This strange regulation focuses on license plates. While many other states in the country have programs for returning old plates, New York does not (If you sell or donate a car, you can and should return the plates to DMV here. This article is referring to "found" plates not associated with a recent vehicle). While the official guidance from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is to destroy old license plates, they have added an extra warning for residents who don't.

Who's Responsible for Old License Plates in New York?

The DMV clearly states that New York drivers are fully responsible for their license plates, even if they're not on their vehicle. Furthermore, vehicle owners can be held responsible for traffic infractions made by any vehicle that is using their plates. From the DMV:

Do not return your old plates to DMV. Destroy your old plates so that they cannot be reused. If your plates are not destroyed and someone else uses them, you could be held responsible for any traffic tickets written against the plates and for any fines resulting from the tickets

While it may sound like a stretch, license plates are one of the quickest and easiest ways to identify a vehicle. Systems like cashless tolls rely entirely on license plate scans for cars and trucks without E-ZPass, and the same is true for similar technology like red light cameras. Attempts to prove that it was a different car with your plates would be exhausting, bordering on impossible.

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The easiest way to avoid this situation is to of course keep both license plates on your vehicle and properly dispose of them when they're no longer needed. The DMV recommends drivers "use a permanent ink marker to cross out the plate number or otherwise deface the plates" before bringing them to a recycling center.

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Gallery Credit: Matt Ryan