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Is It Illegal to Hang Things From a Rearview Mirror?

Rearview mirror wirh crucifix hanging from it

A few years ago, most car owners thought it cool to personalize their car by hanging a pair of fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror. If the dice did not suit your style, you could also hang an air freshener or graduation tassel. However, dangling objects from your rearview mirror could lead to some legal issues.

So, is it illegal to hang things from your rearview mirror? Unfortunately, it is illegal to hang items on the rearview mirror in several states. Many states have enacted laws that make it illegal to hang anything from fuzzy dice, rosary beads, and air fresheners, among others.

In this article, we will discuss which states consider hanging objects from the rearview mirror a punishable offense and highlight some of the most commonly hanging items on rearview mirrors. Read on to learn more.

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What Do People Hang From the Rearview Mirror?

Before we investigate the states that prohibit hanging items from the rearview mirror, here are things that people often hang in their cars.

  • Graduation tassel
  • Rosary beads
  • Dream catchers
  • Headphones/cords
  • Air fresheners
  • Rearview mirror charms
  • Religious paraphernalia
  • Lanyard with keys
  • Commemorative photos

Stuffed toy hanging from rearview mirror

Which States Prohibit Drivers From Hanging Objects From Their Mirrors and Windshields?

It might seem absurd to get pulled over by the police for hanging something non-threatening as an air freshener on the rearview mirror. However, this is a punishable offense in several states:

  • California
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Illinois

These state laws strongly discourage or ban the hanging of anything on the rearview mirror that might obstruct the driver’s view. Large items, be they decorative or otherwise, can become a safety concern if they obstruct the driver’s view through the windscreen.

Therefore, it’s best to know your state’s law regarding the hanging of dangling items on the rearview mirror. Here are some states’ laws:

  • Arizona: in Arizona, the law is clear and concise about hanging objects in the rearview mirror. It states, “It is illegal to have hanging items near the rearview and side mirrors if it reduces or obstructs the driver’s view.
  • California: In California, the state’s law is somewhat unclear. It states, “A person shouldn’t drive a car with any item affixed, placed or installed on the vehicle if it obstructs or significantly reduces the driver’s clear view of the road via the side windows or windscreen.” California’s law doesn’t specifically mention items hanging from the rearview mirror. The law is left to interpretation, even for the police that pull you over.
  • Colorado: Colorado law states, “No vehicle should be operated on any highway if the driver’s vision across any glass equipment is obstructed.’’ An air freshener is not automatically considered a violation of this law. It must actually obstruct the driver’s view to be a violation.” As you can see, this is a very specific outline that it’s illegal for items such as air fresheners to obstruct a driver’s view from the windscreen.
  • Minnesota: In Minnesota, the law doesn’t specifically address obstructions from air fresheners. It states that a person shouldn’t operate or drive a motor vehicle if there are suspended objects between the windshield and the driver. However, some exceptions include rearview mirrors, sun visors, and electronic toll collection devices.
  • New York: New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 375 prohibits drivers from hanging objects from their rearview mirror. If in direct violation of this law, you may have points assessed to your driving record and be liable for hefty fines.
  • Virginia: Initially, any hanging object near the windshield was grounds for a valid routine stop. However, the state enacted a new law which banned police officers from pulling over Virginia drivers solely for specific car safety violations. Under the new law, police should have another primary reason before pulling you over.

No matter what the law stipulates in your state, it’s best not to hang anything substantial from your rearview mirror. You will not only avoid getting cited for traffic violations but also ensure that you, your passengers, and pedestrians are safe.

Giant die stuffed toys hanging from rearview mirror

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3 Reasons Not to Hang Anything from Your Rearview Mirror

1. The hanging object could obstruct your view or distract you while driving

This is the most obvious and perhaps the most important reason you shouldn’t hang dangling objects on your rearview mirror. These objects will affect how you can see via the windscreen. Furthermore, a large object swinging around at eye level will definitely distract you from the road.

For instance, if you have fuzzy dice on your mirror and they swing in the wrong direction at a crucial moment, you could likely turn into oncoming traffic without realizing it until it’s too late. So, hanging dangling objects on the rearview mirror increases the chances of road accidents.


2. The hanging item could damage your rearview mirror

Usually, rearview mirrors are attached to the windscreen with nothing more than a strong adhesive, such as heavy-duty glue. In normal circumstances, the adhesive is more than enough to secure the rearview mirror. However, if you hang something bulky and heavy, you will add additional weight to the mirror and the glue will loosen over time.

Eventually, the rearview mirror will fall off. If this happens while driving, chances are high that the surprise will cause you to panic and lose control of the vehicle. While rearview mirrors are easily replaceable, you should still avoid the hassles and inconveniences of replacing one by reducing the weight you place on them.

A small pouch hanging from a rearview mirror


3. Legal issues

As mentioned earlier, hanging items on the rearview mirror is illegal in some states and the police might pull you over if you violate the law. The law clearly and succinctly states that no items hanging on the rearview mirror should distract or obstruct the driver’s view. If you place something like a graduation tassel or an air freshener that obstructs your view, the police officer who pulls you over can charge you for obstructed view. The ticket is usually $81—a $30 fine and a $51 processing fee.

Furthermore, police officers reserve the right to stop you and check for any further violations. When police officers pull you over for hanging items on the windscreen, they are also obligated to check whether your license and registration are expired or suspended. They can also check if your car inspection is up to date.

In fact, in 2017 about 39,000 citations were given to drivers on Maryland highways due to driving with hanging objects that obstructed their view. Fortunately, the laws are being amended in different states. Obstructed views due to dangling objects are no longer a primary offense. As a secondary offense, a motorist can only be cited if they have been stopped for a more serious offense.

Remember, hanging items on your rearview mirror doesn’t automatically mean you will get a ticket. It is, however, a valid reason to stop you. So, it’s best to avoid hanging items on the back mirror altogether if it’s possible.

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Where Should You Hang Items in Your Car?

You may be wondering where to place car accessories like air fresheners and religious paraphernalia if you cannot hang them on the rearview mirror. If you want to give your car a new car scent, no matter where you place your air freshener it should get decent airflow to circulate throughout the car properly.

You could opt to buy a dashboard air freshener and a vent clip which you can easily install on the vents. If you are using a tree-style air freshener, consider placing it under the dashboard and near the passenger feet vents for extra circulation.

In this post-pandemic era, face masks have become common in our daily lives. Instead of hanging them on the rearview mirror, you can tuck them in the center console compartment or the glove box. Alternatively, you can loop them around the column stalk, car vent, or other covered gear shifters.

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Conclusion

We all have different reasons why we hang items in our rearview mirrors. Whether it’s for aesthetics or for more practical reasons like freshening your car interior, dangling items are accident hazards. Furthermore, the weight exerted by the dangling items could destroy the rearview mirror.

In most states, it is illegal to dangle items in the rearview mirror and one can be pulled over for such a violation. Sure, the lines might be blurred about what constitutes an obstructed view depending on the state you live in. However, whether you are driving in California, Illinois, Virginia, or any other state, avoid hanging items on your rearview mirror to be on the safe side. At the end of the day, obeying the law and safety should be your top priorities while on the road.

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