TAMPA - Nearly a half million Florida drivers have signed up to pay up for personalized vanity license plates in our State, but we found many applications are rejected for being offensive in some way or another.
On a typical Friday evening, Biff's Burgers in Pinellas Park draws classic car buffs like a windshield draws love bugs. Many of them tagging their chrome with a personal touch.
Greg Feminella's plate reads, 'BRKLYN' -- a homage to his beloved home town.
Victoria Muenzerbeer's cherry red vintage car sports a plate that reads 'MUNZZ' -- a lifelong nickname.
Other's like '54MERC' describe the make and year of the car.
'401K TOY' suggests how the car was financed. But not all vanity plate are so G-Rated.
"Sometimes those tag requests are objectionable, kind of obscene at times" explained Ken Rowe of the Pinellas Tax Collector's office.
Rowe rejects dozens of applications every year for tags that are vulgar, racist, hateful or refer to official agencies like the CIA or FBI, even if the driver isn't trying to impersonate the law.
"It was the initials of their company. Now, because it's F-B-I, we're not able to do that" said Rowe.
A screening board in Tallahassee makes the final decision. It has rejected plates like ' DYV NKD' and 'IAMG0D'.
Bill Wedemeier, struggled to sound out '2BZ2P' when we showed it to him in Biff's Burgers' dining room, but the light went on after a few seconds.
"Ha Ha! It is a little comical".
Bea Griswold chuckled at 'IF ARTED'.
"If arted?" she asked innocently.
The rude and silly ones are easy to spot. But when the application requests a seemingly random set of numbers and letters, the review board actually has to consult a slang dictionary.
"It's surprising. Some of those random letters and numbers could be gang affiliation symbols, or obscene gesture or word" said Ken Rowe.
But more often it's a judgment call with one man's obscenity being another man's straight talk.
"I've got a relative that says that on a daily basis!" laughed Bill Wedemeier squinting at a plate too risque for TV.