News Local

Looking through auto glass darkly is subject to legislation

By Pete Fisher, Northumberland Today

Cobourg Police are helping drivers who have dark tinted windows see the light.

Constable Mike Richardson is one of the officers actively enforcing provincial legislation regarding tinting on windows.

The Cobourg police officer, previously with Durham Regional Police, says the driver's side and passenger side windows must have "very minimal" tint and the front windshield must have "next to nil" for the driver's view.

A tool being used by police is the Tint Meter Enforcer.

The device uses a laser and measures the amount of light that passes through the driver or passenger windows.

Two different tinted glass samples came with the device. One sample allows 76% of light through the glass and the other is 26% -- a much darker tint.

When placed in the Tint Meter Enforcer, the device confirms the percentage of light that travels through the glass.

With the co-operation of the driver, the Tint Meter Enforcer is placed over the glass of the driver's side or passenger window and gives an accurate reading on the amount of light passing through.

But, Richardson says, the device is only a investigative tool and not required all the time. Charges have been laid strictly based on officer observations.

"There is no prescribed limit within the courts for provincial enforcement," Richardson says. "All we have to prove is it obscures the interior from our position point."

When a vehicle is pulled over, if the officer can't see inside because of the tint, "I start forming my grounds."

One test involves placing a driver's licence against the window. If the photo can't be identified, the tint is most likely to dark.

"If I have trouble seeing that licence, or if I have to use my flashlight to see through that window to see the licence, that is obscured interior," Richardson says.

Darker tint is allowed on your rear window and rear passenger windows, but the field of view for the driver must be minimal.

Richardson says the law is in place for both the public and officer safety.

"When a person crosses the street at an intersection, if there is a car that pulls up, myself as a pedestrian, I like to make eye contact with the driver before I cross that crosswalk," Richardson says.

"If that person can't get the eye view of the driver, how do they know the driver sees them?"

For officer safety, Richardson says if a window is so tinted it makes the interior of the car dark, the officer has trouble seeing what the driver is reaching for.

"If I can't see their hands, it starts to make me nervous. Then I have a concern for officer safety," Richardson says.

"If I can't see the gender of a driver, it's definitely dark."

Though some police unmarked vehicles have tinted glass, Richardson said those vehicles are used for surveillance purposes.

Richardson says he's charged seven people under the legislation since the summer. Most of the people charged have been men between the ages of 19 and 30 years.

The "cool factor" may have something to do with having dark, tinted windows Richardson says.

One person has been charged twice with having only 4% of light getting through the car because of the heavy tint.

A person who volunteered to have their car checked for tint said his vehicle had the tinted glass put on it when he bought it from the dealership. After the officer checked the glass with the Tint Meter Enforcer, the reading came back at 30% of light getting through. Although it was acceptable, the man took the time to remove the tinted glass right in front of the officer.

The fine imposed is $110 with no demerit points.