Every Arizonan with a car has at least one unique thing that sets them apart — their license plate.

But instead of sticking with the standard Grand Canyon State design, Arizonans spent $11.2 million this past year decking out their vehicles with specialty plates, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

ADOT has seen that revenue jump about 22% in the last five years, from $8.7 million in fiscal 2015 to $11.2 million in fiscal 2019, which ended on June 30.

But the plates are about more than just expressing yourself — a portion of the revenue from each of these plates goes to various charitable causes.

The system is set up to provide $17 of the $25 initial application fee to the charitable organization that’s connected with the specialty plate of choice, which varies from supporting first responders groups, Special Olympics, breast cancer research, hunger relief, university scholarships and many others. It’s all part of a state law passed by the Legislature in 1989, ADOT says.

“Raising more than $11 million in the last fiscal year proves Arizonans are both generous and eager to support great causes and organizations they believe in,” said Eric Jorgensen, director of ADOT’s motor vehicle division.

What are the most popular specialty plates?

ADOT records show that 89,206 veterans specialty plates were purchased or renewed during the last fiscal year, bringing in more than $1.5 million. It’s the second year in a row that the plate, which requires you to either be a veteran or an immediate relative of a veteran to purchase, was the most popular in the state.

Here are some of the other most popular specialty plates in the state.

Appreciating those in uniform

ADOT saw 39,711 plates representing first responders purchased or renewed, totaling $675,000 in revenue. A portion of the money will be going to the 100 Club of Arizona, which works to provide financial assistance to first responders’ families and resources to “enhance their safety and welfare,” the organization’s website says.

Also popular is Arizonan’s support of military members, with 35,512 military license plates. A portion of the $603,704 in revenue from the plates goes to the Department of Veterans Services.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety will receive a portion of $222,394 after 13,082 vehicles were on the roads representing fallen law enforcement officers. The money will help the department support families after they’ve lost a loved one in the line of duty.


The love remains for the Arizona Cardinals, even after a 3-13 record last year.

There were 61,346 Cardinal-style plates in the state, raising just over $1 million in revenue. A portion of the money will go to Arizona Cardinals Charities, according to ADOT records.

If the Territorial Cup between the state’s two largest universities extended to license plates, it might resemble last year’s football result.

Arizona State University plates totaled 23,745, a 2,569-plate lead over the University of Arizona’s 21,176. But who’s counting?

Love for the roads

Arizonans continue to represent the highways, while on the highways. There are 31,141 vehicles with the Arizona Highways plate, which shows various saguaro cacti with a perfect backdrop of an Arizona sunset — a seemingly enhanced version of the standard Arizona plate. The $529,397 in revenue from those plates help support Arizona Highways Magazine.

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ADOT recorded 13,833 vehicles sporting the historic Route 66 plate, totaling $231,161 in revenue. The money helps the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, which works to preserve and promote the historic route.

Down the Road

I-10 signal project at Wilmot, Kolb, Rita roads: The final installation of a signal system at the Wilmot, Kolb and Rita roads interchanges begins on Monday.

Personnel will start at Wilmot Road then move to Kolb and Rita roads. The project should be complete by early fall at the latest, ADOT said.

Motorists should expect delays and alternating lane restrictions.

Valencia Road improvement project: Motorists should expect a shift in traffic to the eastbound lanes of Valencia Road from Wade Road to Ajo Way beginning Monday.

Crews will be working to improve the road and walkways in the area from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The work resumes at the same time on Tuesday.

Houghton Road shoulder improvement project: Construction crews will add shoulders and work on improving the pavement on Houghton Road from south of Andrada Polytechnic High School south to Andrada Road. Motorists should expect heavy delays during the ongoing project from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Wilmot Road or Wentworth Road can be used as alternates leading to Interstate 10.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.