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Legal guide to UK motoring, sections for law enforcement, Driver licensing, learner and new drivers, buying and selling, speeding fines, owning a vehicle, wheel clamping, traffic information.


Tinted Windscreens

‘Lighten Up’ - Windscreen Warning

Tinting your car windows is a quick and cheap way of customizing your vehicle. It makes the car look sleek and it also provides an amount of security if possible thieves cannot see in. Some manufacturers are even producing cars with the rear windows already tinted with this in mind. They do not however supply cars with the front windows tinted, with good reason, because there is legislation preventing this.
However aftermarket tints can be bought which if used incorrectly can breach this legislation. The law states that any tint must allow at least 70% of the light to pass through them. There are obvious reasons for this of course. If you cannot see clearly through your windows then you might not be able to see that cyclist, pedestrian etc. especially at night.

VOSA has spent £13,000 providing light meters for roadside checks. If the meter detects between 45% and 65% of light getting through then you would be asked to remove the tint, failing to do so could result in a £2000 fine. If the meter says 30% to 45% the vehicle is deemed unfit for the road and a delayed prohibition is issued leaving 10 days to remove the tint. Less than 30% and the vehicle cannot be moved until the tint is removed.

However there have been cases of people being caught without the aid of a meter. The law says that an officer can issue an immediate prohibition if he deems the tint to be dark in his opinion. This however has to Obvious. This still seems like a grey area as the resulting proceeding would be depend on the amount of light that does get through and without a meter this would be inaccurate.

What is excessively tinted glass?

Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 as amended specify the minimum levels of light that must pass through the windscreen and front side windows.
The limits are:
Motor Vehicles first used before 1 April 1985:
The windscreen and front side windows must allow at least 70% of light to be transmitted through them.
Motor Vehicles first used on or after 1 April 1985:
The light transmitted through the windscreen must be at least 75%.
The front side windows must allow at least 70% of light to be transmitted through them.
If the glass is tinted to a point whereby it lets through less light, then the vehicle does not meet legal requirements.

Which windows in the vehicle does this apply to?
The windscreen and the front side windows to either side of the drivers' head.

How does excessively tinted glass affect road safety?

It restricts the driver's vision, especially in dark conditions. This
may prevent drivers from seeing other road users or pedestrians.
It also prevents other road users and pedestrians from confirming
through eye contact that they have been seen.

What is the purpose of the law?
The purpose of the law is to ensure the drivers' ability to see the
road is not excessively restricted by glass tint.

Legally where do I stand?
If you are the driver -
- You must not drive a vehicle on the road with the windscreen or front side windows excessively tinted. You may also invalidate your insurance with this modification, particularly as the vehicle
is likely to be illegal.

If you are a tinting company -
- You must not modify, or offer to supply, a part that when fitted to a vehicle means that it does not comply with Construction & Use Regulations.

If you're selling a vehicle with extra tinting applied to the windscreen or front side windows -
- The vehicle may now have glass that is darker than permitted by Construction & Use regulations, in which case the vehicle should not be sold.

Why are tinted windows not included in the MOT test?
Excessively tinted glass is seen as a serious issue but one which currently affects only a small number of the 24 million vehicles tested annually. To include this item in the MOT test would require
all 18,000 garages to incur expenditure on special test equipment and the time taken to carry out an MOT would increase. The MOT fee would have to be raised to cover the extra time and investment.
This extra cost would affect all motorists - all for a small number of vehicles. With the current levels of offending, roadside enforcement is a better route as it targets the offenders while minimising the
cost and inconvenience to compliant road users.

Is this a nationwide campaign?
Yes. VOSA staff throughout the country have been issued with testing equipment. If the equipment is not available, a subjective assessment will be carried out. If the vehicle is considered dangerous to drive then an immediate prohibition may be issued.

Officers in Calderdale have been taking a dim view of people with tinted windows.

Checks have been carried out in the district on vehicles with tinted windows to make sure that the glass is not darkened beyond the point where the drivers ability to see the road becomes restricted.

“We are aware that some travelling criminals use vehicles with heavily tinted glass so as not to be recognised,” said Sgt Garry Alderson of Calderdale Road Traffic Department. “We wanted to deny these criminals the use of the road as well as have a positive effect on road safety.”

"Glass that is heavily tinted can present a real danger. Tinted glass restricts the ability of a motorist to obtain a clear view of the conditions outside their vehicle, particularly when it’s dark. It is vital that a driver can, at all times, see pedestrians and other vehicles. Furthermore, those who drive behind tinted windows have reduced eye contact with others, they cannot confirm that they have seen you, which is another potential hazard.”

The law concerning tinted windows applies to the front windscreen and also to the two front side windows on either side of the driver. For vehicles registered after April 1985 the front windscreen must have at least 75% light transmission through it, whilst the side windows must allow 70% in. For vehicles registered prior to 1985 the figure is 70% for both the windscreen and the front side windows.

“Most vehicles these days do come with a small amount of tinting as standard,” continued Sgt Alderson. “This means that you don’t have to add too much extra for it to become illegal.”

“As well as the issue of safety there is also the fact that any modification to a vehicle, that alters the standard to which it was manufactured, could render the insurance invalid if the insurance company are not notified - so you could also find that you are not covered. Also, window tinting is not currently included in an MOT, there are steps being taken to incorporate it in the future, but you could find yourself with a car that has passed its MOT but is still not road legal.”

Officers have been stopping vehicles throughout Calderdale over the summer to check windscreens with the ‘Pocket Detective - Window Tint Meter’.

“It is an American system which runs off a 9 volt battery,” explained Sgt Alderson. “It is extremely easy to use. The base system slides onto the window, you push a button, a laser reads the tint measurement and the reading is displayed. If the light reading comes up as less than 30% then we tend to prosecute. If it is between 30% and 70% then the driver is cautioned and given the opportunity to remove the tinting there and then. We always test the base unit with calibrated glass before we use it so that we know it is working accurately.”

Officers arrested a disqualified driver on the first day of using the system at the end of July this summer. Since then a further 2 disqualified drivers have been arrested, 13 drivers have been reported for summons, 28 verbal warnings have been given and 11 fixed penalty notices issued. A number of uninsured vehicles have also been seized and extra intelligence has been gathered about travelling criminals.

Sgt Alderson is currently informing local West Yorkshire companies, who offer a glass tinting service, of their responsibilities. A leaflet, produced by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) which sets out all the regulations, is being supplied so there are no excuses for ignorance.

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