Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: There are rules for how much you can tint your vehicle windows

The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual

By Tim Schewe

One of my preferred enforcement practices was to use an unmarked car and drive in the right hand lane at or just under the speed limit. This gave me plenty of time to look at and into whatever passed by on my left. Vehicle defects, failing to wear a seatbelt, distracted driving and other things of interest to a traffic cop were often easily discovered.

I recall doing this once on a cold and rainy afternoon. A car passed by me with both the front side windows rolled down completely and both front seat occupants staring resolutely ahead. Why do you think they were willing to get wet as they pretended not to see me?

As you have probably guessed by now, it was illegally tinted front side windows.

Why is Clear Glass Important for Driving?

The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual. Tint prevents other road users from making eye contact with the driver, it impairs the driver’s ability to identify and react to a low contrast target, particularly among older drivers and tint remains in place at night and during times of impaired visibility.

B.C.’s Window Tinting Rules

There are two methods of tinting automotive glass, tint contained within the glass itself and tinting film applied to the inside surface.

As delivered by the vehicle manufacturer, tint inside the window glass meets Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 and each window is marked with the appropriate AS grade. It was rare to find a window that did not have the approval marking or was incorrectly tinted.

Where most vehicles failed to meet the rules is when the owner installed tinting film:

• more than 75 mm below the top of the windshield

• on a side window that was beside the driver

• on the rear window when the vehicle did not have outside mirrors on both sides

Resistance to Enforcement

In my experience, virtually all Notice & Order #3s were ignored. Ditto the offer to cancel a traffic ticket if the tint was removed and the vehicle presented for inspection. Sometimes it took multiple tickets and Notice & Order #2s to correct the issue.

Tinting Businesses Part of the Problem

I know of one business that actually told their customers that if they were stopped by the police they could come back, have the tint removed, present the vehicle for inspection and then have the tint put back on. Once. Free of charge.

It is an offence under Section 222 MVA for businesses to install tint that does not meet standards. Being prosecuted under this law would be a flea bite compared to being found liable for tint being the cause of a crash. Having business insurance does not protect you from wilfully unlawful acts.

Vehicle Sales Businesses Also Part of the Problem

You could even find vehicles with illegal tint being displayed for sale at businesses. In addition to Section 222 already mentioned, Division 8.01 MVAR also applies to prevent the sale of vehicles that are not roadworthy.

No Medical Exemptions for Tint

Some drivers tried to convince me, even producing a doctor’s note, that they had health or vision issues that required the tint. I could understand this for people who suffered from cutaneous porphyria, but only RoadSafetyBC can grant an exemption from these rules and they will not do so.

So, to see or not to see. Why would you limit your ability to drive safely on purpose?

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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