Could your license plate be misinterpreted by hotheaded motorists in a way that could get you hurt or killed?

Two recent incidents have shown just how dangerous this can be, depending on where you are and what it says. In Australia, one unlucky chap found that out the hard way when his “I5I5” plate (which he has had for a long time) was viewed as support for ISIS terrorists.

That led to nearly being run off the road, as reported by Melbourne news-talk station 3AW, which broke the story:

“When people started abusing me and trying to run me off the road, I figured something was wrong,” Rob told Neil Mitchell.

“(ISIS is) not something we want to promote … when I get a moment I’ll be driving into Vic Roads and … I’ll be very happy to hand them back and Vic Roads can put them through the shredder.”

I5I5 plateRob purchased the plates 12 years ago as part of a series including i3, i4 and i6.

Today, VicRoads offered to exchange the plates for Rob.

“We can contact him today and we’ll … see what we can work out to replace them so he doesn’t have to go through that (long) process,” spokesman John Cunningham said.

And in a story that generated far more news coverage, the host of BBC’s Top Gear was attacked by a crowd of more than 50 enraged, rock-throwing Argentinians who pelted his car because his “H982 FKL” tag was thought to be a reference to the Falklands War. It’s still a very sore subject in that country and continues to be a lightning rod for nationalistic sentiments.

Should BBC have been more careful? That’s a matter of debate, according to Fox News:

Officials said a crowd of about 50 people began hurling rocks at the BBC group Thursday as they drove in a caravan under police escort to the Chilean border with Argentina’s southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego.

Host Jeremy Clarkson and the others were forced to abandon the cars in an area between Tolhuin and Rio Grande. One minor injury was reported and images by local newspapers showed broken windows and other damage to the cars, which were taken into police custody.

Tierra del Fuego Cabinet chief Sergio Araque said the BBC group arrived safely in the Chilean city of Punta Arenas on Friday. He said Argentina’s foreign ministry and customs agency were working on recovering the cars.

The “Top Gear” crew was using three cars, one of them a Porsche bearing the license plate “H982 FKL,” which some Argentines believed was a reference to the brief but bloody 1982 war in which their country tried and failed to take the islands from Britain.

“The feeling over Malvinas is still very strong here,” said Oscar Heredia, a spokesman for the town of Tolhuin, using the Argentine name for the islands known in English as the Falklands. “The license plate was taken as a provocation.”

Beyond the plate, it’s not clear why anyone from the UK would be lingering in Argentina for long, given the history between the two countries.


(Top Gear car image: AP)