Molly’s Bill about license plates

By Neil Freese / Daily News Correspondent
Friday, September 23, 2005

BOSTON — Tearful parents of abducted children joined legislators
yesterday in unveiling “Molly’s Bill,” legislation that would radically
change the state’s auto license plates to make them easier for crime
witnesses to remember.

Maggie Bish, the mother of a Warren teenager who was abducted in 2000 and
later found murdered, called on Massachusetts to lead a nationwide push
for improved license plate laws. The bill was named for Bish’s daughter,

“Every tear I cry is because of Molly,” said Bish. “Please support this
bill, call your legislator. That is our job.”

Under the plan, the state would begin to issue new license plates that
would feature a recognizable symbol, such as a star or triangle, teamed
with a maximum of three alphanumeric characters that also illuminate in
the dark. Current license plates in Massachusetts employ a combination of
up to six numbers and letters.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, called it an
“innovative effort to strengthen public safety.” Tarr said the plan, if
passed and deemed feasible by a Registry of Motor Vehicles study, would
take five years to phase in the new plates.

Specialty license plates, including those honoring veterans, the Bruins,
Red Sox, right whalex and Cape Cod and the Islands, would be allowed to
remain in use since they are already distinctive.

“A picture stays in your head, but numbers do not,” said Bish, who said
she had seen a white car linked to her daughter’s disappearance the day
before the crime, but failed to remember the car’s license plate number.

Bish said the inclusion of a symbol on license plates would help both
children and adults make better identifications.

“We can make this better, we have that right, and we have that
responsibility,” she said.

“Recognition of the color of the plate and the symbol alone will narrow
it down to just handful of vehicles,” said Rep. Peter Koutoujian,
D-Waltham, who was not at the press conference. “And getting an
identification in the first few hours after an abduction is critical to
saving lives and preserving evidence.”

Supporters say that improved license plate design can work in tandem with
the AMBER alert system, which immediately notifies the public and media
of reported abductions.

Among those testifying for the change were Ed and Lois Smart, whose
daughter, Elizabeth, was the victim of a 2002 high-profile abduction in
Utah. The Smarts traveled to Massachusetts to urge passage of Molly’s
Law, calling the legislation “a simple thing that can save lives.”

“Let it start here and spread nationwide,” Lois Smart said.

Gary Richard, president of Sun-Up Products Inc., a Danvers-based company
that produces photo-luminescent products, created the new license plate
design. Richard began to develop the design five years ago after hearing
about a string of high-profile abductions, including Bish.

“The bad guys, they don’t take the bus. They take vehicles,” said
Richard. “This will be a deterrent to those people.”

Richard’s design calls for the use of photo-luminescent paint so that
plates will glow in the dark, making them easier to identify at night or
in poor weather. The symbols used on the plates will be symmetrical so
they can be identified from rear view mirrors.

Richard’s design also offers the option of producing license plates in
different colors — another way to make them more identifiable.

Bruce Share, vice president of Sun-Up Products, said although new
equipment will be required to produce the symbols on the plates, the
plates will still be manufactured in state prisons.

“We’re trying to make the transition as seamless as possible,” Share said

After legislators and parents spoke, 20 students from Charles E. Brown
Middle School in Newton were invited to the podium to offer their support.

Eighth-grader Jackie Zakon said she was sick of being told by her parents
to “watch out,” and that while Molly’s Law won’t mean complete
protection, it is a start.

“I beg you to contact legislators and demand they pass Molly’s Law to
help keep us safe,” she said.

Amy O’Hearn, director of public relations for the Registry of Motor
Vehicles, said the Registry received theof Molly’s Law yesterday. She
said the Registry had not reviewed the bill yet and had no comment.

Copyright 2005 – Milford Daily News

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