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Custom window tinting could be a violation

March 24, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Springtime in the North Country, coupled with students going to Florida for Spring Break, can spell trouble when someone takes their car to a shop for the purpose of applying more "tint" to their windows. Article 375-12(b) of state Vehicle and Traffic Law regulates the amount of tinting allowed on vehicles in New York state.

In simplest terms, the law limits tinting on windshields (except for the top 6 inches), front side windows and wings, and the rear window, to a minimum of 70 percent light transmittance. This means that at least 70 percent of the light entering a window must be allowed to "pass through" that window, as measured by a light transmittance meter, which most police agencies have.

The rear window is exempted if the vehicle has rear view mirrors on both sides of the vehicle, adjusted to afford the driver a clear view of rear traffic conditions.

While new vehicles sold in the United States most likely will meet the legal requirements for tinting, the problem most often arises when owners get additional tinting applied to windows from an automobile shop, usually in another state, without knowing what is allowed.

The intent of the law is to eliminate those windows that are so darkly tinted or reflectorized that they could constitute a safety hazard for police officers. Such windows would prevent a police officer, when approaching a vehicle, from observing any illegal activity inside that vehicle, such as possession of a weapon. Also, the absence of darkly tinted windows assures that eye contact, essential for safe operation, may be made between the driver and other motorists and pedestrians.

There is an allowable exception. Any person required for medical reasons to be shielded from the direct rays of the sun and/or any person operating a motor vehicle belonging to such person or in which such person is a habitual passenger can be exempted from the tinting requirements. However, the exemption must be granted by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and notice of such exemption is affixed to the vehicle. The applicant for such an exemption must provide a physician's statement for the reason for the exemption.

Getting a darker tint applied may be a cool thing to do, but it often leads to a V & T violation. Fines for a first violation can be up to $150 plus surcharges.

For more articles on V & T Law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Boards web site at: and click on Traffic Safety Board under the pull-down menu for departments.



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