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Blocking of rear license plates and taillights is illegal
Lead Summary
Sgt. Troy Christianson of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: My question is related to the blocking of rear license plates and the taillights on vehicles equipped with rear mount bicycle racks, and also the large platforms that mount into a receiver hitch and most often contain large coolers. Is it legal to block the rear of the vehicle and the license plate with this equipment?  Yesterday I was behind a van that had two kayaks strapped to the rear platform and the taillights were completely blocked so the drivers behind would have no idea when the vehicle was braking.  I was once pulled over for snow obstructing my rear plate during a blizzard so I find it odd that more and more cars have their plates obstructed with the carriers mounted on the rear of their vehicles.
Answer: If any part of the taillight or license plate is blocked by a bike, carrier or any other object, it is illegal and you may get stopped and possibly cited for it.
According to MN State Statute 169.50, vehicles built after 1960 must have two red taillights that are plainly visible at 500 feet to the rear and on the same plane.
MN State Statue 169.79 requires that the license plate be “conspicuously displayed thereon in a manner that the view of any plate or permit is not obstructed”.
This is a safety issue as other vehicles can’t see the taillights, and it could cause a rear-end crash. My advice is to make sure that your license plate and taillights are visible at all times. Find other options on where to place bigger objects on or in a vehicle so the rear taillights and license plate can be seen.
Not being able to see the taillights is not the only potential danger when behind another vehicle — so is an unsecured load.
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at, Twitter:   MSPPIO_SOUTH

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