diamond geezer

 Saturday, September 26, 2020

At the start of the month, when 20 ticked over to 70, I suggested three numberplate spotting games. Three different sequences to try to follow on new-style registration plates, for no particularly good reason other than to pass the time while out and about.

» Alphabetical By Area Code: A~, B~, C~, D~, E~, F~, G~, etc
» Sequential London Identifiers: LA, LB, LC, LD, LE, LF, LG, etc
» Reverse Chronological: 70, 20, 69, 19, 68, 18, 67, etc

I've now tried playing all three and can confirm that one of the games works really well and the other two very much don't. I was intrigued as to why, so this week have undertaken mass collection of numberplate data to try to understand.

Alphabetical By Area Code

This is the game where you try to spot a plate beginning with A, then a plate beginning with B, then C and so on. Each letter represents a different part of the country so A is for cars registered in East Anglia, B for Birmingham, C for Cymru and so on. You can see a full list of area codes here.

Alas this is one of the games that doesn't really work. Only 19 of the 26 letters of the alphabet are in regular use as area codes, so if you try working your way through this particular alphabet you will get repeatedly stuck.

• Codes I and Z are never used (because they look took much like 1 and 2).
• Codes Q and X are only used on vehicles purchased tax free for export, hence particularly rare.
• Codes J, T and U have no meaning whatsoever, but can still be purchased as part of a personalised plate, so are very rare too.

Experiment 1 - first letter
I stood beside Stratford High Street long enough to watch 571 vehicles go by. I tallied the lot, I didn't wait to do them in order. I wondered what the overall distribution of first letters might tell me. Here are my results as a graph.

There's a lot to unpack here. Numberplates starting with L were a lot more common than any other letter - 22% of the overall total - because L is for London. In second place was E for Essex with 11%, and in third place K for Herts/Beds/Bucks/Northants. I suspect if I'd stood in a different part of London I might have seen a lot more G for Kent or R for Reading. The least common regional plates were C for Wales and V for Worcester because they're a long way away, and O for Oxford because it's only small. I saw more Ss than expected because a lot of our local double decker buses were registered in Scotland.

At the lower end I was amazed to see a Q among my 571 vehicles because they're ridiculously uncommon, and far less surprised not to see an X. Of the three letters used only on personalised plates I only spotted a J, this on a white van owned by J Kent Roofing Specialists from Basingstoke. I could probably have stood there for most of the morning and not seen a T or a U. And this is why Alphabetical By Area Code doesn't really work, the letters are very much not evenly spread.

Sequential London Identifiers

This is the game where you have to work your way through all the initial two-letter pairs in your local area, which in my case means starting with LA and ending with LY. It's crucial to know which pairs were never released, which in London's case is LI, LQ and LZ, and not to waste your time waiting for those.

I know from my previous experiment that around 20% of vehicles in London have L codes of some kind, so there ought to be plenty of spotting opportunities. But when I tried playing the game I got very stuck around LE to LH, wasting days looking without getting any further forward, so something untoward was evidently going on.

Experiment 2 - first two letters
While walking around London I spotted 636 vehicles whose registrations started with L. I tallied the lot, I didn't wait to do them in order. It took a couple of days. I wondered what the overall distribution of area codes might tell me. Here are my results as a graph.

The two-letter codes are a lot more equitably spread this time. Most of the 23 possible codes appeared a reasonable number of times, so if you were hunting for (say) LA then LB then LC then LD you ought to be in luck. But two codes appeared a lot more often than the others, namely LV and LX, with LV easily the champion with 12% of the total. Meanwhile two codes, namely LE and LU, hardly appeared at all. I was so surprised when a single LU finally turned up that I went over and took a photo of it. But I didn't spot LH at all, indeed still haven't, despite the fact it has allegedly been released.

When the new numberplate system was launched in 2001 London had three separate DVLA offices. Wimbledon issued codes LA to LJ, Stanmore used LK to LT and Sidcup took LU to LY (although these offices closed in 2013 and everything's now run from Swansea). These sub-areas may help explain the overabundance of LV and LX in east London, but not the mysterious scarcity of LE, LH and LU. All I can say is that Sequential London Identifiers doesn't really work because there are too many exceptionally rare occurrences along the way.

Reverse Chronological

Which brings me to the game that does work. Counting back from 70 (September 2020) to 51 (September 2001) works rather well, so long as you manage to keep remembering which number comes next in the sequence. There are just enough 70s out there now to start you off, and still just enough 19-year-old 51s to allow you to finish.

Experiment 3 - age identifier
I stood beside Ruckholt Road long enough to watch 417 vehicles go by. I tallied the lot, I didn't wait to do them in order. I wondered what the overall distribution of age identifiers might tell me. Here are my results as a graph.

At last a genuine pattern, and one that makes economic sense. Most vehicles on the road are fairly recent, hence the hump at the beginning, while there are fewer older vehicles the further back you go. I saw more 68s than anything else but the other codes from 2016 to 2020 weren't far behind... indeed 43% of the overall total came from the last five years. Meanwhile a quarter of the total came from 2011-2015, and this dropped to just 5% by the time I got back to 2001-2005.

The surplus bar at the end of the graph includes all the vehicles registered before the current system was introduced, plus all the personalised numberplates that sit outside the system. Altogether they made up about 7% of the total, or one in every 15 vehicles. On this particular dual carriageway they split roughly fifty-fifty between old and personalised, but you'd get a very different split if you surveyed traffic in Barking or Belgravia.

And this is why, if you want to play a sequential numberplate spotting game, it's much better to focus on ages than area codes. Always do your research before undertaking a potentially pointless activity. I'm sure you'll all be rushing to have a go this weekend.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards