For original article published on October 16, 2015, please see: New England College of Optometry Study Supports EZ-ID’s Effectiveness

Former and Current NECO Presidents Dr. Lewis and President Scott partner to study effectiveness of license plate design utilizing symbols

Selected as one of the nine most newsworthy stories of the year by the American Academy of Optometry, Alan L. Lewis, OD, PhD, FAAO, former president of New England College of Optometry (NECO) presented findings of a study to assess the effectiveness of the EZ-ID program at the AAO’s Academy meeting in New Orleans on October 6, 2015. The pilot study conducted by the College evaluated the effectiveness of a new license plate that uses a symbol in place of an alphanumeric character in the sequence.

The EZ-ID program proposes to create an easier way for people to remember license plates by using a symbol such as a heart, triangle, star, or heart in place of a number. Jay Gardiner, Vice President of the EZ-ID program explains, “EZ-ID Plates are designed using a universal symbol (retrieval cue) to empower everyone to identify, remember and report license plates, which results in life-saving and cost-saving outcomes. With this modernization, witnesses will instantly recognize and remember the information of the target vehicle and dramatically reduce the search of potential vehicles for law enforcement.”

The EZ-ID program was initiated by entrepreneur Gary Richard following the murder of Molly Bish in 2000. The primary goal is to increase the ability of a witness recalling key elements of a vehicle license plate that may have been involved in a crime to assist with rapid apprehension. Although the concept of EZ-ID had been favorably received by proponents of improved license plate design, there was little or no research to scientifically validate the claims of the program.

When the Massachusetts legislature started considering the benefits of implementing the EZ-ID, NECO’s President Clifford Scott, OD, Dr. Bruce Moore, and Dr. Stacy Lyons attended a State House ceremony establishing a task force to investigate the program further and announced that the College would pursue the research necessary to validate the concept. New England College of Optometry then set about to test the effectiveness of the new license plates in the spring of 2014. President Scott enlisted the aid of Dr. Lewis to conduct a scientifically sound “proof of concept” study. Dr. Lewis worked with Dr. Scott and Marek Jacisin, as well as volunteers from the NECO third year OD class to design and complete the project within a few weeks.

The results of the study confirmed increased accuracy on recalling the plates with symbols versus the alphanumeric plates. In fact, 96% of the symbols on the plates tested were correctly recalled, in both identity and position. The initial study concluded that the EZ-ID design with symbols provided a significant improvement in short-term retention when compared to the traditional six alphanumeric character designs.

The findings of the pilot study were presented at the annual meeting of the United States National Committee of CIE (Commission Internationale de L’Eclairage) in November 2014 and also submitted as a research report at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Optometry (October 2015).

Dr. Lewis notes, “We are now working on a proposal for a follow-up study that will extend the research to a “realistic” scenario, will involved a significantly larger and diverse subject pool, and will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal.” Results of the new study, as well as the implementation of a new license plate system could have a large impact on public safety.

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