This may seem like a silly question. After all, almost everyone has hung something from their car mirror. Whether its fuzzy dice, a pine tree shaped air freshener or a colorful plastic lei. These are only a few of the common items seen hanging from mirrors, there are plenty more.
As silly as this question sounds, the answers may surprise you. It turns out that there are some things you cannot hang from your mirror. There are also a few other rules and regulations that you should know before replacing your faded fuzzy dice.
Can You Legally Hang Items From Your Mirror?
In some states the answer is no. It is illegal to hang anything from your mirror in some states. Two being Texas and Virginia. This even includes air fresheners.
Most other states also have laws on the books regulating what drivers can legally hang from their rearview mirrors. To make sure that you are legal, it is best if you check with local laws before hanging fuzzy dice or even a lanyard from the mirror.
The most common regulation concerns windshield blockage. All states have laws requiring drivers to have an unobstructed view. If whatever you decide to hang from the mirror blocks any part of the windshield, you run the risk of getting a ticket. It’s a small fine, but if you are constantly ticketed for the same offense the cost will keep increasing.
Why You Shouldn’t Hang Objects From the Mirror
Before you start questioning why there are laws detailing what and if anything can dangle from your mirror, here are three reasons why you might want to reconsider hanging those fuzzy dice.
You could be distracted or your view blocked
This reason should be rather obvious. If the item is too large there is a good chance it is obstructing your view. This makes the item a safety concern, and this is illegal. There is also the chance that the dice or another object could start swinging, distracting you.
Taking your eyes off the road, no matter how briefly, is how a lot of accidents are caused. No only will you be cited for being at fault if there is a collision, your insurance company may bulk at paying for the damages. If nothing else, your rates will go up.
The rearview mirror could be damaged
You might not think about this, but hanging heavy or hard objects from your mirror could damage it.
Most car mirrors are mounted with industrial strength glue or small screws. Both can handle the weight of the rearview mirror, but hanging items from it could cause the glue or screws to gradually loosen. The last thing you want is for your mirror to suddenly fall down when you are driving. This would be a definite distraction.
Another problem with heavy or hard items is that they can crack the mirror when the item is swinging around. Not only is it illegal to drive with a cracked rearview mirror, it is also dangerous.
Fixing or getting a replacement mirror can take some time. In the meantime, you won’t be allowed to legally drive your car. The cost of replacing the mirror can vary, depending on your vehicle’s make and model.
You risk getting a ticket
Even if your state does not specifically ban hanging items from a rearview mirror, it is usually left up to the officer’s discretion. All states have laws that make it illegal to drive if your windshield is obstructed.
According to Colorado’s statutes title 42,
“No vehicle shall be operated upon any highway unless the driver’s vision through any required glass equipment is normal and unobstructed.”
This statute is a little vague. It goes on to state that an air freshener is legal, as long as the driver’s view is not impeded.
California’s regulations regarding items hanging from rearview mirrors is a little clearer, but it still leaves room for interpretation.
“A person shall not drive a car with any object or material placed, affixed, or installed on the vehicle which obstructs or reduces the driver’s clear view through the windshield or side windows.”
An air freshener or even a graduation tassel proudly hanging from your mirror might not be blocking your field of vision, but it is still up to the officer if you are cited. To play it safe, you might want to stop hanging anything from a vehicle’s mirror.
What the Courts Have to Say
It shouldn’t surprise you that due to the vagueness of the statutes regarding objects hung from rearview mirrors some of the cases involving tickets ended up in court.
While the verdicts differ in all cases, one thing was made clear. If the officer can definitively state that the object was too large and the driver’s view was obstructed, the courts will rule against the driver.
This was the case in Com. v. Shabazz. The officer was able to accurately describe the presence of multiple air fresheners, along with a pair of three-inch fuzzy dice. Even if the driver could prove that his view wasn’t blocked, the presence of multiple items hanging from the mirror created a dangerous distraction.
It was the reverse in Com. vs. Benton. Here the court ruled that the presence of a single, thin air freshener was not in violation of the statute.
As you can see, it can be difficult to know what is legal. In most cases it is best to refrain from hanging any item from your mirror. However, if you absolutely have to hang an air freshener or another small object, check with local and state laws. You can save yourself a fine or an annoying day in court.
Blocked Windshield Views are Illegal
It doesn’t matter what state you live in, anything that obstructs your view makes it automatically illegal to operate your vehicle.
While this includes anything you might have hung from your mirror, there are other ways the view from your windshield can be obstructed.
If your windshield is cracked, it’s time to fix or replace it. The longer or wider the crack gets, the more your vision is affected. You also need to worry about the possibility of the windshield shattering. As the crack progresses, it can weaken the strength of the glass.
Too many people in the front
This applies more to older vehicles, especially pickup trucks that often have one long bench seat instead of separate ones. Bucket seats do limit the number of passengers that can sit up front, however a bench seat can often comfortably fit three.
In many states this is illegal. The third person’s head and body can make it difficult to see out of the passenger side window. It can even interfere with how well you can see out of the rearview mirror. If you are involved in a traffic stop, you should probably expect to get a ticket.
Snow, ice, and dust
Anyone that lives in a colder climate has probably dealt with snow and ice on their windshield. It’s not fun scraping it off when it’s freezing outside. However, if you want to stay legal and safe it is something that you must do.
Scraping just enough off the windshield to have a small area to see out of is illegal. The entire windshield must be clear. This also applies to dusty windshields, wash it off before driving.
Drive Safely and Legally
To stay legal and safe behind the wheel the best advice is to refrain from hanging any objects from your mirror. This includes air fresheners. If you have to freshen up the air inside your car, there are handy plug-ins that don’t restrict any views.
Remember it is always better to be safe. It can also save you the cost of a ticket.