How your car's air freshener can get you a ticket

Police in Illinois are expected to stop 38,000 drivers this year for having windshield obstructions, an increase of 91 percent since 2004, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune.

Police can--and do--pull drivers over for anything police deem to "materially obstruct" a driver's view. This means anything from handicapped placards to air fresheners.

The Tribune article mentions several "gotcha" moments in Illinois when windshield obstructions led to arrests for more serious crimes. In one example, a driver was stopped for having a hanging deodorizer, but then arrested for illegally possessing Xanax.

Based on the state's track record for traffic stops, minorities could be disproportionately affected. In general, minorities are 13 percent more likely to get pulled over than white drivers, and 8 percent more likely to be cited for an offense, according to a Illinois at Chicago study.

The Chicago Reporter took on a similar topic this spring, reporting on racial profiling in traffic stops in our March/April 2009 issue.

Have you been pulled over for trying to eliminate the smells inside your car? We'd love to hear your stories in the comments section.

--Compiled by Christopher Danzig

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  • I live in the NW suburbs. One day, for no apparent reason, my wife and son were pulled over while on their way to meet me and our other son at hockey class. He gave her a ticket for an obstructed view for having a "rectangular" air freshener hanging from her rear-view mirror. The officer told her she could pay the fine within 10 days or go to a hearing which he dated on the ticket. The officer told her if she went to the hearing and showed the hearing officer that the air freshener had been removed then the ticket would be as good as garbage. We both assumed this meant she wouldn't have to pay any fine.

    Well when she went to the hearing the hearing officer asked her if she had removed the air freshener and she said 'yes". The officer stamped the ticket and told her to go to the clerks window. She didn't even bother to go look to see if it had actually been removed or anything. My wife had to pay the $50 fine anyway!!!

    What was the point of waiting to go to a hearing? Did the officer lie to my wife,(who happens to be Japanese)? Or have the suburban police departments resorted to giving out tickets to those they feel won't fight city hall-minorities?

    Ever since my wife got the ticket we've been asking ourselves the question; "If they're illegal to hang from your rear-view mirror why isn't some sort of warning placed on the packages?" There are people everywhere hanging these things from their mirrors and don't even know it's illegal until it's too late!

  • I added this to Dumb Laws dot com. Because only a complete utter moron would put this on the books somewhere.

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