We all see cars, SUV’s and limousines with heavily tinted windows and sometimes wonder is that legal? Well, let’s find out.
Tinting is generally used to block sunlight. It helps reduce the load on the car air conditioning system and minimize UV ray damage to the car interior as well as to the eyes and skin. Tinted windows typically filter out about 70% of solar heat versus less than 10% for non-tinted windows. Window tinting is also applied for a variety of other reasons, such as driver privacy or to help keep shattered glass in place upon impact in the event of an accident.
Dark window tinting is an issue since it hinders the ability to see into a car.
Why is it important to see into a car?
There are many reasons, one of which is for eye-contact. Our streets are filled with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers and its beneficial to know when we are visually aware of each other’s presence. Very dark windows can interfere with the eye contact. Another reason for seeing into a car is for police observance of distracted driving infractions, such as talking or texting on smartphones or eating and drinking while driving. Dark window tinting can also create poor driver visibility at night and increase the safety risk of police officers walking up to a darkened car.
How is window tinting done?
Vehicle manufacturers provide standard tinted vehicle glass (“factory tint”) through a glass dying process and lasts the lifetime of the glass. Generally they have a mild tint that is certifiably legal but can make the windshield more expensive to replace if damaged.
Typically, aftermarket tinting is done with a thin polymer film applied to the interior window glass. This can be less expensive than manufacturer tinting, however a disadvantage is that removal of old window film can be difficult. Do-it-yourself kits claiming easy “stick-on” installation but can result in bubbles or wrinkles and rarely end up looking professional.
Is window tinting legal?
Window tinting provided by the car manufacturer is considered legal. It is aftermarket tinting that can create issues.
Laws that are subject to judgement or interpretation are subject to abuse and window tinting can fall into this category. Cars legal in one province may be illegal in another. For example, the Ontario Highway Traffic Act Section 73 states in S 73(3): “No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle on which the surface of the windshield or of any window to the direct left or right of the driver’s seat has been coated with any coloured spray or other coloured or reflective material that substantially obscures the interior of the motor vehicle when viewed from outside the motor vehicle.” Certain provinces specify an acceptable light transference factor.
The light transference factor is how much light is allowed to pass through. For example, a 20% visible light transference factor must let 20% of light pass though. We have all seen the dark tinted side windows on a limousine or SUV that makes you wonder who is inside. These vehicles have likely applied a 5% tint, thereby letting only 5% of the light through.
The lower the tint factor number, the more light that is blocked and darker the window. Measurement of actual light transference is done by use of a photometer in some provinces while other jurisdictions may be at the discretion of a police officer.
What levels of tint are acceptable?
Aftermarket front windshield tinting is deemed illegal in Canada however in British Columbia tinting no more than 75 mm (3 inches) below the top of the windshield is permissible.
Most provinces don’t allow side window tinting. Quebec legalizes tint driver side windows only up to 70% percent while Manitoba has a limit of 50% percent. Driver visibility is a concern, hence they don’t want the side windows heavily darkened.
In Canada the law isn’t overly focused on tinting of the rear windshield although some provinces might prohibit tinting only the upper part of the rear windshield.
Canada regulates the level of factory tint on the windshield to a minimum of 70 per cent of light passage through the glass. This is sufficient to block the UV rays of the sun and provide sufficient visibility for night driving. Unfortunately for some people, this level of light passage does not offer much anonymity so they may choose to darken the tint on the back seat and rear windows to 20% if permitted within their jurisdiction. Exemptions for darker tinting are available for individuals with a medical or vision-related condition that require restricted exposure to sunlight.
The desire for window tinting has a sound basis however be aware of the laws in your province. Reputable auto glass shops should be up to date on provincial legal tinting laws. Should you decide to tint your windows, keep in mind that although your vehicle may be in compliance within your home province, it may not be legal if you travel or move to another province.
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