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EDITORIAL: Too many shades of legality concerning tinted vehicle windows

Jan. 21, 2021--Derek Goldsmith measures the width of a window for a car to be tinted in his shop in Lawrencetown, NS, Thursday.
(for Lambie story on tinting of car windows)
ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald
Derek Goldsmith measures the width of a window for a car to be tinted in his shop in Lawrencetown on Jan. 21. There are fewer restrictions on tinting rear side windows and rear windshields in Canada. - ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald

To say rules governing tinted windows on motor vehicles in Canada are confusing would be an understatement.

What’s legal varies between provinces.

Most do not permit front windshields or front side windows to be tinted, but some — including New Brunswick here in Atlantic Canada — allow a certain level of tinting.

In New Brunswick, front windshields/front side windows can be 70 per cent VLT tinted.

VLT (visible light transmission) refers to the percentage of visible light that penetrates the tinted glass.

But in Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador, no tinting of front windshields or front side windows is legal.

To complicate matters further, provincial rules only apply to aftermarket tinting.

Federal motor vehicle safety standards authorize factory-installed tinted windows, including front windshields and front side windows, meeting certain criteria.

“CMVSS 205 allows the use of tinting as long as it has a light transmittance of at least 70 per cent (i.e., the glazing allows a minimum of 70 per cent of the light to filter through the windows),” says Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu.

Many newer vehicles have tinted windows.

So, a 70 per cent VLT tinted front windshield is legal, across Canada, if factory installed, but illegal, in most provinces, if an aftermarket application.

That must sometimes pose problems for law enforcement to be able to quickly tell the difference.

Meanwhile, differing provincial rules on aftermarket tinting means some vehicles with tinted windows that are legal in their home jurisdictions could be fined elsewhere.

Ottawa and the provinces should co-ordinate to set national standards so rules are consistent countrywide.

What’s the rationale for tinted windows?

Beyond the often argued aesthetic factor, proponents cite the benefits of cutting glare and, especially for those making their living behind the wheel, such as truckers, taxi drivers and others, protection from skin cancer.

Glare, however, can be combatted by wearing proper sunglasses. Appropriate sunscreen can provide adequate skin protection.

On the other hand, police say tinted windows can make it difficult to identify who’s in a vehicle, hindering — depending on circumstances — threat evaluation. Tinted windows can also conceal infractions, such as texting while driving.

Police also say the resulting diminished visibility can make it hard for pedestrians and cyclists to make eye contact with a driver or simply be seen, especially at night.

These are all compelling reasons for police to continue to enforce the law on illegally tinted vehicle windows.

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