Ask A Trooper: Can you drive with a hanging handicapped placard?
Question: I have a concern about the disability parking certificates and the incorrect use of them. We obtained one last year after my husband suffered leg fractures. The instruction sheet that is mailed out by the MN Dept. of Public Safety states, "driving with the hang tag on your mirror could result in a ticket for obstructed view." Generally, the people who are most frequently using these are either elderly, disabled to some degree or both. When attempting to look out the windshield with the tag on the rearview mirror I was amazed at how much visual space is obscured. I believe it is a real safety concern when people drive with the tag on the rearview mirror.
Answer: Thank you for bringing issue up and I couldn't agree with you more. You are correct, state law prohibits any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield, other than: sun visors, rearview mirrors, global positioning systems or navigation systems when mounted or located near the bottommost portion of the windshield; and electronic toll collection devices. This law does not apply to law enforcement vehicles and other authorized emergency vehicles.
I recently came across some information from a crash reconstructionist who calculated the area obstructed by a 3.5" wide x 5" high object hung from a mirror or windshield. He estimated that the average distance from the driver's eye to the typical view obstruction is two feet. Since drivers are supposed to scan the roadway ahead of them as they drive, he based his calculations on a distance of 100 ft. in front of the driver. At 100 ft. away, this object will create a blind spot of 14.58 ft. wide and 20.83 ft. high for a total of 303 square ft (if the hanging object is a perfect four sided object). As it so happens, 303 square ft. is nearly the exact perceived square footage of a typical passenger vehicle at 100 ft. away. Now, take into consideration the size of a bicyclist or pedestrian. Throw in a "distracted driving" factor and what happens then? So when you need it to park, put the tag up. When you need to drive, take the tag down. This should become as much of a habit as putting your seatbelt on. Those other items that people like to hang from the mirror can also cause an obstruction (air fresheners, fuzzy dice, etc.)
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, email@example.com).