Special Segment: A Personalized Problem

December 13, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"I've had that license plate forever, I don't want to give it up. I'll have that license plate until I die I think," said Roxanne Christiansen.

Friends call Roxanne "Roxy," and for the past 30 years the state of Illinois has too.

"I'm the original Roxy, it's a privilege having those license plates," said Roxanne Christiansen.

But lately, that privilege is more like a headache. Strange tickets are showing up for violations in Chicago, more than 60 miles away from their far west suburban home. One said their car was impounded. Another is a letter from a lawyer trying to collect.

"We never thought that this would be a problem. We thought once you got issued this type of plate, that's your plate, and nobody else can have it," said Larry Christiansen.

The Christiansens started getting ticket after ticket in the mail issued to a white 1996 Chevy car with license plate "Roxy". The trouble is their Roxy is on a dark gray Mercury SUV.

"The state is issuing other ones that are getting confused with ours," said Larry Christiansen. "When people look at a plate, they identify it with the large letters."

Illinois issues more than 60 different kinds of specialty plates -- from firefighters to veterans, the environment to the University of Illinois. But on each new plate different drivers can register the same combination of letters or numbers.

Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker says they're working with law enforcement officers to help them note the additional letters on vanity plates.

"I think what we're talking about is the people who are writing these tickets to be as careful as possible," said Druker.

Michigan doesn't let drivers double register. Once you snag a plate in Indiana, it's yours. Wisconsin used to let plates repeat on vanity registrations, but it caused such a problem they scrapped the idea nearly 20 years ago.

"Given the size of the state of Illinois, in order not to mix numbers and letters together, we do repeat them. But as I say there is an indicator on every license plate so that law enforcement knows specifically who to trace it to," said Druker.

"With the state of Illinois, to duplicate a plate in that type of fashion just doesn't make sense to me," said Larry Christiansen.

The Christiansens say they're steering their Roxy clear of downtown.

"There's been several times I've wanted to do some things in the city of Chicago and my fear is that I could come out and my car could be booted," said Larry Christiansen.

"I think they're just going to look at that name, Roxy, and then you're the one that's in violation," said Roxanne Christiansen.

The Secretary of State's spokesperson says they did find one other Roxy plate that matches the car from the tickets. The state splits the money raised by the sale of specialty plates with whatever cause the plates represent. The state's portion goes to program administration.

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