Hanging car air fresheners are a classic that we might all be able to remember swinging on the rear-view mirror during childhood, but that nostalgia is deceiving.
It seems silly; many people have things hanging from their rear-view mirror, decorating the inside of their car. However, if you're pulled over, whether for a road violation or at a check stop, and an officer notices decorations hanging from your rear-view mirror that they feel can impede your view of the road, they can fine you. Car air fresheners are technically illegal to have hanging from your rear-view mirror. Having one could cost drivers in the UK £1,000 or 3 points on their license.
Whether this is something that’s likely to happen is another story, but it is an infraction for which you can receive points on your license or a fine.
Why Are Hanging Car Air Fresheners Illegal?
Having an unobstructed view while driving is crucial for road safety. Hanging car air fresheners can potentially block or limit the driver's field of vision, leading to impaired visibility. This obstruction can prevent the driver from properly assessing their surroundings, including potential hazards, pedestrians, and other vehicles. It can also hinder their ability to react quickly in critical situations, increasing the risk of accidents.
Potential Legal Implications and Penalties
The law means not only hanging car air fresheners possibly costing you £1,000 or 3 points on your license, but anything bulky or unwieldy could give officers enough reason to fine you. It’s the same principle for which a policeman might stop you if you’re driving with sunglasses at night, or if you’re holding a map up in front of you as you drive—you’re supposed to have your full concentration on the road.
People often leave parking placards, jewellery, graduation tassels, and even pictures hanging from the rear-view mirror that can get them in hot water. Taking the time to ensure these hanging things don't impede your vision can ensure you don't get slapped with a huge fine.
Where Are Hanging Car Fresheners Illegal?
The UK isn’t the only place having a hanging car air freshener can cause problems. In Canada, for example, having things hanging in your windshield that obstruct your view can get you a fine ranging from $80 to $110.
State-Specific Regulations in the United States
Regulations regarding hanging objects in vehicles vary across different states in the United States. For instance, states such as Minnesota, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Texas have laws that permit law enforcement officers to pull over drivers and issue fines for having items hanging from their rear-view mirror. Other states have more general laws prohibiting anything that obstructs the driver's view, allowing officers to issue fines for specific violations.
So, this isn’t just a UK thing—it’s a worldwide issue!
Air Fresheners That Don’t Hang
A great way to be sure that you're not going to get in trouble for your air freshener is by not having one that hangs.
Electronic Car Mist Diffusers
Electronic car mist diffusers are a simple option that packs a lot of punch. These devices do not obstruct the driver's view as they are placed in cupholders and typically plug into the vehicle's charging port. Electronic diffusers offer a wider range of scent options compared to traditional hanging air fresheners and provide stronger and longer-lasting fragrance. Additionally, they require minimal maintenance, often offering different modes and intensities to suit the driver's preferences.
At the same time, these diffusers come in a much wider range of scents than the traditional hanging car air fresheners. They are much more powerful and don't require heat or water, making them low-to-no-maintenance. With several modes and intensities, you can choose exactly what scent and how much you have in your car, giving you complete control over your experience. What's more, they have a sleek and attractive appearance, adding to the inside of your car rather than being an eyesore.
Better Safe Than Sorry
If you polled 50 people about this question, you would probably get a lot of different answers. For many, the frequency with which we see hanging car air fresheners swinging from a rear-view mirror makes it feel impossible that they could be illegal. However, a law surrounding the safety of all drivers and how well you can see the road allows officers to ticket you if they feel as though your hanging car air freshener is obstructing your view of the road.
If you want to avoid a £1,000 fine or 3 points off your license, a great alternative is a car diffuser that will freshen the inside of your car without hanging in the windshield. These diffusers plug in discretely down below your field of vision but offer a big punch in scent. Visit our catalogue for a full view of the scents you can legally fill your car with.
What type of items are not allowed to hang from the rear-view mirror?
Anything bulky or unwieldy could give officers enough reason to fine you. This includes parking placards, jewellery, graduation tassels, and even pictures. While in reality these laws are rarely enforced, they apply whether the issue is your car air freshener or something else.
Are there alternatives for people who want to make their car smell nice?
Yes! Electronic car mist diffusers are becoming popular as they don’t hang from the rear-view mirror and come with a variety of scent options. They plug into your vehicle’s charging port and can be placed discreetly in your cupholder.
Apart from electronic car mist diffusers, there are various alternatives available to make a car smell nice. Vent clip-ons, sprays, and other non-hanging air fresheners are popular choices. Vent clip-ons attach to the car's air vents and release fragrance throughout the vehicle. Sprays can be used to freshen the air inside the car, with options ranging from traditional air freshener sprays to more natural and organic alternatives. Non-hanging air fresheners, such as sachets or gel-based products placed discreetly in the car, offer a subtle and long-lasting fragrance without obstructing the driver's view.
Is it illegal to have an air freshener attached to the dashboard?
No - as long as the air freshener does not block your view of the road, then you are in the clear. Additionally, make sure it is securely attached to the dashboard so that it does not become a distraction while you are driving.
Can I use a scented candle instead of car air fresheners?
No - candles are not safe for use in cars as they may cause fires when left unattended. Also, burning candles produce fumes that can be toxic when inhaled for long periods of time. Stick with non-flammable options such as electronic diffusers or sprays for better results and safety.
Do I have to remove my air freshener before taking an MOT test?
Official Gov.UK guidance does, in fact, tell mechanics: "You can remove items such as a sat nav or air fresheners that obstruct the driver’s view of the road. However, make sure you tell the driver." Again though, in practise, it is highly unlikely for them to do this, they would tell you if they did, and you don't have to do it for them.