Northern Ireland number plates and how they work

Ever looked at a number plate? We are all guilty of thinking that number plates, in their entirety, are completely random. However, the truth is that they are not. In fact, they are designed to be unique, a way to identify a car over other cars. 

This is true around the UK and whilst number plates may look different depending on where you are. They all work the same. If you live, work or visit Northern Ireland, then chances are that you will quickly realize that number plates look at lot different. 

So, why is this and what to do these number plates actually mean? 

Northern Ireland number plates history

It was back in 1903 that it was decided that cars in the UK needed to be able to be identified when they are on the road. This meant that every single car was registered and had a number plate given to it which was unique. 

Over time, the idea of number plates have changed and in the rest of the UK the sequences and systems of how they are created has changed. However, in Northern Ireland number plates haven’t really changed that much. 

Back when number plates were first created, there were only around 50 cars in Northern Ireland, so, there wasn’t much thought given to how they would make number plates unique on a long-term basis. 

It didn’t seem that many people could anticipate just how quickly cars would grow in popularity, and so it came as some surprise that the limited number plate sequences that were available meant that they ran out of new ones. 

Things just got worse as cars became something that everyone owned and during 1966, the number plate system in Northern Ireland was changed and a new one was introduced

How the number plates have changed 

Things have stayed the same since 1966 and number plates still look similar now to how they would have back then. Any differences that have been put in place are subtle and probably not that easy to spot. One of the most notable was a change in the colour of the number plates that were used. 

The idea behind number plates in Northern Ireland is that they have a letter that shows the year that the car was registered, then they are followed by a city code or a county code which is where the car was registered. After that, there is a sequence of numbers, which is what makes the car unique.  

Whilst this current system is working well, it has been noticed that soon these new sequences are going to run out. Which means that a new one needs to be generated. The idea that has been discussed is that number of plates will be switched around and the numbers will come first followed by the letters. Although it will take time for this to be put in place and to be seen on roads across Northern Ireland. 

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