We always love to hear from, and chat with, our customers. It is a great way to know how our products are doing with day-to-day driving. It also helps us keep up to date on what is on the minds of drivers who use after-market products like auto window tint, and paint protection film – two of the many services that Tint Tech provides.
Just the other day, a customer came into our Tint Tech shop with a story we hear all too often. She has been driving her car for years now. She bought it used, and it already had tinting on the windows. The window tint job was fairly well done, so there was no fading, peeling, or discoloration. But, after years of driving with it, she suddenly got pulled over a few days ago by the police for having illegal tinting on her windows.
While the fine was not too bad relatively speaking, she never knew that the window tinting job was darker than the legal limit. In addition, in her case, she had tinting on the front driver’s and passenger’s side windows – which is illegal in many provinces and states. She was completely surprised that all this time she was driving with illegal tinting.
We were happy to help her with replacing the window tinting on her car, making sure it was within the legal limits. She could not be happier with our Tint Tech service, and she was also able to drive away with the peace of mind that she wouldn’t have deal with a ticket again.
This story got us thinking. It is a perfect opportunity to discuss with you a little more about legal and illegal tinting limits, and familiarize you with all of the important terminology that goes into auto window tinting. So, if you are ready to stop “living outside of the law” – you mavericks out there – then read on for a little primer on how the police view window tinting.
Why Are There Legal Limits on Window Tinting in the First Place?
Safety is the touchstone of why Canada, the United States, and many other countries have limits on the darkness of tinting on a car’s windows. While legal limits can be a real bummer when you want your awesome ride to look sleek with nice dark-tinted windows, there needs to be a balance between good looks and safety. The safety concerns, in fact, are in two different places.
Police Safety. First and foremost, very dark windows present a real safety concern for police officers. Every time a police officer stops a car for speeding or some other traffic infraction, he or she has to come up to the driver’s side window of the car. If the windows are tinted such at the officer cannot see the person, or the person’s hands, in the car, then the officer is at greater risk. When an officer can see the movements of the person inside a car, then the officer can more appropriately assess any risk.
In addition, police are charged with ensuring that people wear seat belts, don’t use hand-held devices while driving, and are not engaged in any other activity that distracts from the task of driving. If a dark-tinted window blocks the officer’s view, then the officer cannot enforce the rules that make other drivers safer.
Driver Safety. As cool as tinted windows look, they also can make life difficult for a driver who is driving at night. Tinted windows dramatically reduce visibility for those driving at night, making turns more difficult to navigate or making distances harder to judge.
What Are Some of the Important Terms Related to Window Tinting?
When it comes to knowing the legal parameters of window tinting, it helps to understand the terminology the laws regarding window tinting use. In fact, most often, the degree of darkness of a window’s tint is measured in VLT%. So, let’s start with that term.
- Visible Light Transmission Percentage (VLT%). This is the way in which law enforcement measures the darkness of automotive window tint. As the name suggests, VLT% is the percentage of visible light that can pass through a tinted window. So, while it may be a little counter-intuitive, the lower the VLT% number then the higher the darkness of the tint. So, for example, a 32% VLT means that of the 100% of light that can come through a window, the window tint film only allows 32% of the light in. That is a fairly dark tint compared to a VLT that is 70%.
- Front-side windows. The front-side windows denote the side windows closest to the driver’s seat and the front passenger seat.
- Rear-side windows. These are the side windows closest to the passengers in a car’s back seat.
- Rear window. That is the back window that faces out to the back of the car.
- Windshield. As you would expect, that is the window that faces the front of the car.
- Color. Tinting comes in different colors. Fun fact – the laws, depending on the province, may prohibit certain colors, including reflective/mirror tints.
- AS-1 Line. This is the line from the letters AS-1 (found on most car windshields) to the top of the windshield itself.
Now, when you look up a province or state’s law on window tint, you will understand the different measurements that matter. If a province, for example allows 70% on “front sides,” 40% tint on “rear sides,” 30% tint on a “rear window,” and AS-1 on the windshield. You know the limits for each type of window, and that any tint you have can only go to the AS-1 line on the windshield.
Things to Remember
There are some exceptions to tinting limits for medical reasons, such as people who have special light sensitivity. Therefore, you can have darker tint than the law allows provided that you have a doctor’s note. Also, some tinting laws can be somewhat ambiguous to give law enforcement some leeway. For you, the driver, try to be conservative in your tinting to avoid issues. Finally, you should be aware that most vehicles already have factory tint on windows, usually at 70-80% VLT. Keep that in mind when adding tint to your car.
Overall, window tinting is awesome for your car’s looks, but can be a little tricky when it comes to law enforcement. Be sure to check the laws in your local jurisdiction, and then feel free to reach out to Tint Tech, Calgary’s number one auto tinting specialists, for more details. Call us at 403-968-8468.