From the current issue of Car and Driver comes an interesting piece on personalized license plates, and how they are reviewed for suitability. In particular, it focuses on the process exemplified by the Word Committee, which is a board created by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles tasked with approving custom plates.
Many other states have similar boards or processes, but VA's is said to be one of the most thorough. C/D spoke with Word Committee member Melanie Stokes to get a better understanding how their system works. The WC is made up of 20 DMV employees with a mix of diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages. The group meets once a month to review plate applications that have been deemed questionable or offensive. Apparently, the board does not use resources like Google or Urban Dictionary, claiming that their decisions are made "based on what a reasonable person would think when seeing the plate."
It should be noted that, in light of their efforts, the plate "EATTHE" was initially deemed acceptable on a special charity plate which featured "Kids First" at the bottom. The plate gained national attention, only to later be recalled. The clever plate proves that no matter how thorough the efforts, some creatively questionable plates will slip through.