Kenya's number plate system dates back to the colonial era when the first-ever vehicle registration system was established. The colonial era administration introduced the system with the prefix "K" followed by an alphabet representing the various regions.
However, the system evolved over time owing to the increase in the number of vehicles in the country. The letters “O” and “I” are, nonetheless, not used due to their resemblance with digits 0 and 1.
Kenya currently uses the system LLL NNNL- three letters with the prefix “K”, followed by three digits and a letter at the end.
This system was adopted in 1989 - to replace the older sequence of LLL NNN. The change to the current system was adopted after the first sequence was exhausted.
Why “O” and “I” Are Not Used
According to the Traffic Act (Registration Plates) Rules, 2016- number plates should be "optically recognizable characters" which means alpha-numeric Eurofonts with simple, distinct features identifiable using cameras.
The rules were set to ensure ease in identifying vehicles through the registration numbers embossed on the number plates.
Another regulation set in the Traffic Act was that every letter or digit be at least 75 millimetres high and at least 15 millimetres broad.
The number plate was to be made either of a white reflective material (for the front number plate), or a yellow reflective material (for the rear plates).
Rules governing Kenya's number plate system have also been applied in various countries across the world where the aforementioned letters do not feature in vehicle registration.
In addition, Kenya's number plate system skipped "KAF" in its sequence despite having the letter in the "KB" and "KC" series.
The "KAF" is used in the special car registration numbers issued to vehicles owned by the Kenya Defence Forces-KDF's Kenya Air Force Wing (KAF).
Kenya Air Force uses the three letters as its identity, embedded on its aircraft, installations and other paraphernalia.
The letter "D" in the KD" series was also excluded. After the "KDE" series, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) proceeded to the letter "G"- which explains why there is no "KDF" in Kenyan number plates.
In the latest generation of number plates introduced by the NTSA, the number plates have a new font and additional features including an imprinted national flag, hologram, watermark, and unique serial numbers for the rear and front plates.