Driving a vehicle with an upside down registration plate is illegal

1 November 2023
What was claimed

It’s not illegal to drive with an upside down registration plate. There’s no law stating the number plate must be recognisable to a camera.

Our verdict

DVLA confirmed it is illegal under the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 to drive a vehicle with registration plates attached in a way that is hard to read.

A post on Facebook falsely claims it’s legal to drive a vehicle with upside down registration plates. 

The post shows a photo of a grey Audi with its number plate attached upside down and, under the heading “ULEZ LOOPHOLE”, says: “Fun fact, this isn’t illegal and you have every right to evade cameras this way, even if you get pulled over.

“There is no law that states the number plate must be recognisable to a camera.”

The post has been shared in a public Facebook group campaigning against emissions charges, such as for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), and it has more than 230 reactions. 

But this is not true. A spokesperson for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) confirmed to Full Fact that it is illegal under the 2001 Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulation to attach a number plate the wrong way around. 

They said: “It is an offence to alter the number plate or registration number of a vehicle so that it is hard to read. Failing to meet the requirements can attract a fine of up to £1000.”

The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 states that a registration plate must not be fixed in a way that “has the effect of changing the appearance or legibility of any of the characters”, makes it “less easily distinguishable to the eye” or “impairs the making of a true photographic image of the plate through the medium of camera and film or any other device”.

The Facebook post goes on to quote information about displaying number plates that comes directly from the government’s website, and includes a link to a section of the 2001 legislation that specifically refers to fixing registration plates on work trucks, road rollers and agricultural machines. 

Full Fact has written other articles relating to motoring claims, including if you can be fined for driving in flip flops or with an unsecured pet, and whether driving during a red weather warning will void your car insurance

We’ve also seen lots of misinformation about ULEZ, including false claims that visits to places of worship are exempt from charges, all drivers of non-electric vehicles will be charged and it was introduced without a public consultation. It’s important to verify information with official sources before sharing it online. 

Image courtesy of Richard Croft

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