Q Here's a good one for you, Gary. I live in Alameda. One recent weekday about 8 a.m., I went out to my car to go to work and found a ticket on it for no front license plate. The time on the ticket was 3:42 a.m.

You mean to tell me that Alameda police have nothing better to do than go around putting tickets on cars at 3:42 in the morning? I've heard of Mickey Mouse before but this takes the cake, as it were.

Warren Serkin

Alameda

A OK, I'll first perform my civic duty and say that two plates are required and without them you put yourself at risk of a ticket, even at 3:42 a.m. Now, I'll tell you how I really feel.

This is Mickey Mouse. Handing out tickets at weird hours while you are sleeping has happened in other cities and leaves a sour taste in my mouth. If I had heard someone rustling outside my home at that time of night, I would have called 911.

Had you been cited for being parked on a city street while running errands, I am certain you would have been unhappy. Then I say tough, but the idea of someone doing this in the dark of night goes beyond that.

Q My son was pulled over off an exit ramp by a CHP officer who asked him where the front license plate was, and my son told him it was in the trunk (it is a hatchback, so the license plate is visible through the window). The officer gave him a fix-it ticket to get a front plate on.


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There is a petition circulating online to get the law requiring front plates abolished. I can see why, since there are so many cars in California without front plates. Any advice?

Catherine Lewis

San Ramon

A That petition will go nowhere. Two plates are required and the rationale for having a front plate is obvious -- to identify the vehicle from the front. John-the-Traffic-Cop explained why:

  • "To locate a stolen or wanted vehicle. You are a cop and you are looking for a gray Camry. There are a lot of them running around. Sure makes my job easier. I can check the plate without turning around."

  • "Identify a hit-and-run suspect. You are sitting at a red light. You get rammed from behind. The guy drives off. If you are really lucky the plate will be embedded in your rear trunk lid. Or at least you should be able to read the imprint in the paint that the plate left."

  • "Several departments have a plate scan reader that automatically reads plates from all sides while officers drive about their normal duties. It constantly checks for stolen cars and wanted felons. If a hit comes up, then the officer gets the information on his computer screen."

    Q I was recently catching up on my TV shows when one of the contestants on American Idol stated that she had been given a ticket for eating an ice cream cone while driving to the show. What's the "scoop" on this and other things like sipping beverages or eating food while driving?

    Madelyn Sharp

    Morgan Hill

    A You can be ticketed for distracted driving if eating a cone or food is distracting and you are unable to keep your car under control. There's just one Roadshow exemption -- drinking a Jack in the Box iced tea is OK.

    Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow, follow him at Twitter.com/mrroadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.