Tinting is Cool – Right?
Most modern cars have a small level of tinting to their window glass – it looks good and helps keep the sun out when it’s hot. It’s perfectly legal.
However, many people like to go further than this and ‘black out’ their windows – making them look like limousine windows. Indeed, the blackest level of tint commonly available is known in the trade as ‘limo tint’.
As well as looking good (if you like that kind of thing), dark-tinted windows improve privacy and help keep the sun out – but they are only legal on windows behind the front doors of a car.
The law states that front door side windows must let at least 70% of light through.
Front Windscreens must let 75% of light through (70% on cars first used before 1st April 1985).
The reason for this is simple – dark tints restrict visibility in poor light conditions, meaning that you might not see other road users as well as you would with a clear window. The risk is greatest when you are driving at night, when you are effectively driving with dark sunglasses in the dark… It is easy to imagine how tinted glass would prevent you seeing poorly-lit road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. The consequences could be fatal.
This law is enforced with increasing thoroughness by the Police and by VOSA, who carry measuring equipment to check how much light can pass through a tinted window.
(Click here to view more information about tinted windows on the DirectGov website)
What’s The Penalty?
If your front side windows or windscreen are found to be too heavily tinted, you are committing an offence and one of two things might happen:
You could be issued with an Endorseable Fixed Penalty Notice (EFPN) – this means your licence will be endorsed with 3 points and you will be issued with a £60 fine;
If your windows are illegally tinted but close to the legal limit, it is possible you might be let off with a vehicle defect rectification notice, which requires you to have the tint removed and provide evidence that this has been done to a police station (e.g. a garage receipt).
As I’ve already mentioned, the biggest safety risk with tinted windows comes when driving at night. A Traffic Police Sergeant recently contacted me to point out that if you are involved in a serious collision while driving with tinted glass at night, the tinted windows can be used as evidence towards a charge of careless or dangerous driving. These offences carry severe penalties, ranging right up to prison sentences.
Remember, all of this only applies to front side windows (i.e. driver’s door and front passenger door) and windscreens. You can do what you like to rear windows (including the back windscreen).
What Should I Do Next?
If you have had your car’s windows tinted (to a legal level) you should inform your insurance company, as they are likely to consider this to be a modification to your car. Failure to inform your insurance company of modifications can lead to future claims being invalidated.
If you have bought a second hand car with tinted windows and you think the windows may be too heavily tinted, we would suggest one of the following:
Have it removed (can often be done with a hairdryer, else ask a garage)
Take it to a tinting company or MOT centre and ask their opinion
Contact your nearest VOSA test centre, explain that you have just bought the car and ask if they will test it for you.
(Be warned that in a worse-case scenario, VOSA might issue a prohibition and prevent you leaving the test centre before you remove the tint – hopefully they would be reasonable, however, since you brought the car to them voluntarily).