None of us like getting that dreaded notification in the post informing us that we’ve transgressed in some way or another when we’ve been driving somewhere. These notifications are automatically generated after we’ve been identified through our number plate being seen on camera while we’ve been breaking some rule or another, so you might wonder if it’s possible to make your number plate invisible to a camera?
Can your number plate be hidden?
You can definitely make your number plate invisible to ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras, but I must state right here and now that it is illegal and will probably leave you open to more serious sanctions than the speeding or parking fine that you’d be liable to if your plate hadn’t been hidden or obscured in some way. I cannot state strongly enough that obscuring your registration plate is illegal in the UK and you absolutely shouldn’t do it, ever!
How can your number plate be made invisible?
There are some really obvious ways you can stop your number plate from being read by ANPR cameras or anyone or anything else for that matter, but the truth is they’ll probably draw even more unwanted attention than your naked number plate.
For example, you could obscure your registration number by covering it with something. If you cover your plate with reflective tape then that would work, but even if you use white or silver tape on the front and yellow tape on the rear plate, your plate with no characters on it will probably be the first thing everyone looking at it will notice.
You could also remove your number plates completely, but I’m sure that would have a similar or worse outcome as the reflective tape.
An old, old favourite is to have your number plate covered in mud and dirt from the road, especially in winter when this can actually happen unintentionally. But if you think this will stop you from getting a tug from the Old Bill then think again. Regardless of your personal view of the quality of today’s police officers, none of them are going to be fooled by that. On top of that, they’ll probably also be able to tell whether the obscuring of your plate is consistent with the state of the rest of your vehicle, or whether it’s the result of a deliberate act.
If you do an online search, you’ll probably come across all sorts of different products offered for sale that claim to be able to hide your registration number from ANPR cameras, and many of them claim they almost magically hide your plate from the cameras but are unnoticeable by the naked eye. More of those later.
Why hide your number plate?
It’s obvious that anyone wanting to make their registration number invisible is trying to avoid a fine, trying to avoid being identified, or both. It doesn’t matter whether you want to avoid a £60 fine and three points on your licence for speeding, to be able to park as long as you like without being fined for overstaying, or trying to hide your identity because you’re on your way to committing a crime; it simply isn’t worth the risk.
Trust me, if the police catch you trying to avoid your number plate being read, they’ll probably assume the worst rather than the best and deal with you proportionally. In those circumstances, a £60 parking or speeding fine and even three points on your driving licence will soon look pretty appealing compared to the more serious visit to the magistrate’s court you’ll probably be obtaining for yourself by trying to avoid a small fine.
Do the “magic” solutions actually work?
There used to be plenty of “magic” products on the market that claimed to make your number plate invisible to traffic cameras, but few of them did anything more than empty your pockets of cash. A lot of them were sprays or tapes that claimed to make your number invisible to the cameras but not to the naked eye, so the idea was you wouldn’t draw the attention of the police because your plate looked fine to them, especially at a distance.
Most of these were soon debunked, and one of the better things about the internet is things that blatantly don’t work will soon attract a lot of negative reviews that will put most people off buying them.
However, a few creative ideas for obscuring your number plate remain, but I have to state that I’ve never tested any of the sprays or tapes myself that have been claimed to hide your vehicle’s identity from the authorities.
- Reflective tapes – Some of these are to be applied to the background and some are supposed to be applied to the characters. The idea is the reflective tape illuminates the plate and causes the camera sensors to bleed or blur light around the characters, making them unreadable. The image of the number plate that gets captured will therefore show up as a fuzzy white rectangle due to the tape reflection.
- Blockers – As I mentioned earlier, you can simply block your plate with something like duct tape, but some suggest you get a little more creative so you can claim ignorance when you eventually get pulled by the cops. Things you could use to block your number include bike racks and trailers, but in the UK, this is unlikely to work as we have to have registration plates on both the front and rear of vehicles.
- Photo Blocker Sprays – These are perhaps the most “magic” of magic solutions where all you have to do is spray the invisible spray onto your number plate and cameras won’t be able to read it. If any of these ever worked I’ve yet to see evidence, but I can find plenty of online videos and testimonies that say they are nothing more than a scam.
- Fresnel Lens – A Fresnel Lens is a lens you place over the plate that allows the number to be seen perfectly when viewed straight on, but from an angle such as above where ANPR cameras are usually located, the number is blurred. These probably work, to a degree, but like tape and no plate at all, they’ll probably draw more attention and more chance of getting nicked than leaving your plate clear.
- Infrared LEDs – Some sites claim placing small LEDs on your plate will make it hard for some types of cameras to read your plate, but this claim appears to date back some time to when ANPR cameras were a lot less sophisticated than they are now.
Of course, the best way to avoid any fine or other sanction from the police when driving is to avoid doing something wrong in the first place. It’s a somewhat revolutionary idea, I know, but it really does work.