A measure initiated by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias to decriminalize having an item like an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, which often served as a pretext for traffic stops, passed the Illinois Senate 41-11 today.
Under House Bill 2389, sponsored by State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8 th District) and State Sen. Christopher Belt (D-57th District), law enforcement would no longer have the authority to stop a motorist for simply hanging items like air fresheners, rosaries, or disability placards from their rearview mirror. This legislative proposal, which passed the Illinois House in March, follows through on a campaign promise Giannoulias made in 2021.
Current Illinois law prohibits such items from hanging from a rearview mirror, or affixed to a windshield, on the grounds that they obstruct a motorist’s vision. Such unnecessary encounters over minor vehicle code offenses can lead to violent confrontations between police and motorists. Additionally, this arcane law can serve as a pretext for racially motivated traffic stops for minor infractions.
“There is absolutely no data to support that pulling people over for an air freshener or a rosary hanging from their rearview mirror reduces violent crime or prevents accidents,” said Secretary Giannoulias. “Amending the current law will not jeopardize public safety; instead, it will result in greater equity on the road and improve relationships between police and community by eliminating pretextual traffic stops that disproportionately affect people of color.”
“We need to do everything we can to reduce the need for police interactions with people for nonviolent and non-threatening violations,” said State Rep. Ford, the bill’s chief sponsor in the House. “There is no reason for police to pull over a vehicle just because they have an air freshener on their mirror or for many other minor infractions. Making this change in the law is too important to wait because it’s a safety issue for both the public and law enforcement. Law enforcement is overworked and understaffed. Springfield must use taxpayers’ resources wisely to catch the violent criminals that make all our communities less safe by repealing laws like the air freshener ban.”
“This change is needed because this is a safety issue for law enforcement and the public,” said State Sen. Belt, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. “No driver in Illinois should fear that they may be stopped or searched for something as minor as having a small item hanging from the rearview mirror.”
Illinois is one of a handful of states with laws banning items from hanging from a rearview mirror. HB 2389 now heads to the Governor for his consideration.