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Nova Scotia police are cracking down on cars with illegally tinted windows, but some drivers swear by them anyway.
“One of our big problems is window tint and we’re seeing growing numbers of vehicles in the province with window tint on the driver side and passenger side windows on the front,” said Cpl. Mike Carter, a traffic officer with the Nova Scotia RCMP.
“That really restricts visibility. The darker windows, when you’re coming up to intersections, you can’t necessarily, particularly at night time, see the person at the crosswalk when you’re making that right-hand turn. Or the person standing there looking can’t see you inside the car to try to engage an eye contact before they start to proceed across the road. So dark windows are a problem that we’re trying to combat.”
Police are not winning the fight here against tinted windows, Carter said.
“We’re on a losing battle side of that one because we keep seeing more and more cars get it. We try to ticket it and get the people to remove them as much as we can, but it just seems to be everybody wants a window tint and they’re putting them on their cars.”
Drivers have various reasons for wanting tinted windows, Carter said.
“Maybe to hide them not wearing seatbelts or being on their phone,” he said. “Or just ‘cause it looks cool.”
Carter, who is based in New Minas, said it’s legal to tint a car’s rear and back windows.
There are lots of companies that will tint windows, he said.
“Vehicles with tint (on the front side windows) are not supposed to pass inspections. Auto detail shops will (apply tint) or people can just order the film and put it on themselves.”
Window tint is legal in other jurisdictions, including Ontario, Carter said.
“I suspect there are lots of U.S. states where that is legal. They are the bigger market.”
'Berries and cherries'
Rob Biddulph got pulled over and ticketed for tinted windows about two years ago in Dartmouth.
“I was basically just driving through the city and the next thing I know, the berries and cherries lit up behind me,” Biddulph said.
He’d already rolled his driver’s side window down, but the police officer got him to close it again and ticketed him for illegal tint. It was the second time he’d been caught; the first time came with a warning to remove the tint.
“I knew in Nova Scotia that you’re not allowed to do that, but the sun gives me really bad migraine headaches so I always found it made things better for me having them done,” Biddulph said.
“But of course, there’s no leeway with that.”
Besides the glare, tinted windows stop the sun from “blasting” a car’s interior, said the 39-year-old excavation expert.
While he doesn’t have a car with tinted windows now, Biddulph is in the process of restoring a 1981 VW Rabbit. “I will have it done to those side windows as well. Just lightly. But I, no doubt, will do it again. I think the rule is terrible. You look at all the other provinces that allow it. Of course, the reasoning is they can’t see who’s driving the car, which just seems really silly to me in the first place.”
'First thing I did'
Greg Higdon also thinks the province’s tinting rule is silly.
In the summer of 2017, the then-21-year-old had just bought a brand-new Honda Civic.
“The first thing I did was I went and got the windows tinted on it,” Higdon said.
“So, the back ones were tinted pretty much as dark as you can, which is legal, and then the front ones were tinted (but more lightly than the back), which is just flat-out illegal, but you can still see through them perfectly fine.”
Police handed him a tinted windows ticket for $230 that same summer in Dartmouth.
“I went to court and beat the ticket. I just went there and told them I had the tint taken off. … I since sold the car and got another one and have it set up the same way, primarily because I have vision problems and I’m on the highway — I drive for a living. When I’m on the highway in a car that doesn’t have any light protection on the windows it bothers me; I get a headache quite quickly and I find it really uncomfortable. There’s no excusable reason to do it. Like, they won’t let you get a doctor’s note or anything like that. So, I just do it anyway and deal with it when I get pulled over.”
A trucker by trade, Higdon wears tinted safety glasses while he’s working.
But if he drives in a car without tint in direct sunlight, Higdon, now 25, said he finds himself squinting a lot. “That just puts strain on your face in a weird way and it ends up giving me a headache. And then it’s even worse at night, dealing with headlights.”
Derek Goldsmith has been tinting windows for about 30 years. He used to be based in Dartmouth, but now he works out of Lawrencetown in the Annapolis Valley.
“I’m definitely seeing a lot more of it,” said Goldsmith, who owns Derek’s Tint Plus.
“I warn everybody it’s against the Motor Vehicle Act," he said. "You could tell me you’re moving to Ontario tomorrow, where it is legal.”
A lot of his customers do just that.
“Whatever excuse they want to come up with,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it is a ticket-able offence. And they can fail it for (motor vehicle inspection).”
All car windows are tinted slightly at the factory, Goldsmith said. “So, it’s baked right into the actual glass.”
And car windows tinted at the factory are allowed in Nova Scotia.
But drivers often want more tinting than that, he said. “People are more concerned about cancer than they ever were — the whole melanoma scare and everything. They just want it done for that. Or, it looks good. There’s a million reasons as to why.”
People like the look of tinted windows and tinted licence plate covers, which are also illegal in Nova Scotia, but widely available in big-box stores, Goldsmith said.
“It’s a look. It’s like putting nice wheels on your car. You’ve got the nice wheels, you’ve got the tinted windows, you’ve got the tinted plate cover, it just kind of brings it all together and makes it look like a pretty sharp package.”