Virginia's Restrictions On "Dangling Objects" In Vehicles

Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

Attorneys and activists across Virginia battled in courts for years against a law that gave law enforcement officials the authority to pull over vehicles because of disabled parking placards or fuzzy dice dangling from rearview mirrors. That law was amended last year.

What Is the ‘Object Dangling in the Windshield’ Law?

Virginia Code § 46.2-1054 refers to the suspension of objects or alteration of the vehicle so as to obstruct the driver’s view, popularly known as the “dangling objects” law. The statute gives police officers the right to pull over any vehicle that has a dangling object from the rearview mirror or on the windshield. The new amendment to this law prevents law officers from stopping a car specifically for objects from the windshield even if it obstructs the driver’s view.

Amendment to Virginia Code § 46.2-1054

There were several deadly traffic stops captured through dashcam footage and cell phones in 2020. This compelled the commonwealth to finally change its take on Virginia Code § 46.2-1054. The special legislative session in November 2020 passed sweeping reform in case of traffic encounters. Several vehicle equipment violations were reduced to secondary offenses from primary offenses from March 1, 2021.

Police are not allowed to stop motor vehicles for objects dangling from the mirror. The General Assembly went further by ensuring that the enactment of Va. Code 46.2-1054(b) does not give police officers the authority to admit incriminating evidence in any future trial as part of a stop.

The General Assembly passed these amendments to prevent and discourage the use of pretextual policing. This is the practice of stopping vehicles for conducting investigations that are not related to the basis for the stop. However, it is important to understand that Virginia Code § 46.2-1054 has not been abolished. Police officers can still write tickets for objects dangling from the mirror. However, this is only when you are pulled over for another lawful reason.

Vehicle Accidents and Dangling Objects from Mirrors

Although the law has been changed, drivers still need to be aware of the dangers that objects hanging from rearview mirrors can cause when it comes to obstructing views and traffic accidents. An object dangling in the windshield can pose significant distractions to drivers, jeopardizing road safety and increasing the risk of accidents. These objects may seem harmless or decorative, but they can have serious consequences.

Some of these risks include:

  • Reduced visibility: One of the most immediate dangers of objects dangling in the windshield is reduced visibility. These objects can obstruct a portion of the driver’s field of vision, creating blind spots and making it harder to see pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, or potential hazards on the road.
  • Distraction: Dangling objects can be distracting. Whether it’s a decorative ornament, an air freshener, or a religious symbol, drivers may find themselves glancing at or fidgeting with these items. These distractions divert their attention away from the primary task of driving, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Glare and reflection: Objects hanging in the windshield can also create glare and reflection issues, especially when hit by sunlight or headlights from other vehicles. This glare can temporarily blind the driver, making it difficult to see the road ahead or the instruments on the dashboard.
  • Sudden movement: Objects suspended from the rearview mirror can swing or move unexpectedly due to vehicle motion or wind currents. Such movements can startle or divert the driver’s attention, leading to erratic driving behavior.
  • Airbag deployment interference: In modern vehicles equipped with airbags, objects hanging in the windshield area may interfere with the proper deployment of airbags in the event of a collision. This can result in more severe injuries in accidents.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident?

A driver can still be cited for having their “view obstructed because of a suspended object.” The fine is $30, plus a $51 processing fee. If you have been injured in a crash caused by another driver and that driver was cited for violating this law – or any other traffic violation – your Virginia car accident lawyer can use that citation as evidence against the driver in any legal action you pursue against the driver.

Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free consultation and find out what legal options you may have for financial compensation for the losses your injuries have caused.