Window tinting and the law

Sol-Ace Window Tinting Ltd (hereafter Sol-Ace) will always conform to the law, but here seek to clarify recent amendments and their interpretation of them.

To start, let us review the original statute:

Light Transmission of Glazing – Summary of requirements (Summaries of construction and use regulations for motor vehicles – Department for Tansport)
Motor vehicles first used between 1/6/1978 and 31/3/1985 must have windows which allow at least 70% of light to pass through. Motor vehicles first used on or after 1/4/1985 must have windscreens which allow at least 75% of light to pass through – all other windows must admit at least 70% of light.

These requirements do not apply to:

  • any part of the windscreen outside the vision reference zone (as defined in C&U# Regulation 32(13));
  • windows through which the driver is unable, at any time, to see the road;…………..

Glazing – Summary of requirements

The following table summarises the general requirements for glazing materials in motor vehicles:

tinting-chart2

Vehicle types

A: Passenger or dual purpose vehicles first used between 1/1/1959 and 31/5/1978

B: Goods vehicles, locomotives or motor tractors first used between 1/1/1959 and 31/5/1978

C: Any wheeled vehicles (other than caravans) not included in A and B first used before 1/6/1978

D: Wheeled motor vehicles first used between 1/6/1978 and 31/3/1985

(Note: The W, X, Y, Z refer to glazing types)

So the original draft of the law does not, in theory, allow us to fit tinted film to glass either on the windscreen, or the two windows either side of the driver (forward of the B pillar), as it decreases the level of light transmission below 70%. This was worked around however, as the law didn’t specifically state anything about the fitment of after-market films.

Moving forward, this ‘work around’ was abused, and a number of people fitted low light transmission films to their front windows, the so called privacy or blackout films. The inevitable happened, a report on a fatal accident noted that the fitment of an after-market tint to the window, and consequential loss of vision, was contributory to the death of the motorcyclist. This, combined with European directives, leads us to the recent amendment.

 

Window Tinting – Amendments to Legislation – Consultation Letter – Department for Transport

Tinted windows

This consultation letter seeks your views on a minor clarification of the existing provisions of law. We are proposing to clarify in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 that the prescribed light transmission levels for windows in vehicles also apply to any film, tint, or any other substance applied to the windows that would adversely affect vision.

Background

Regulation 32(10) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 prescribes levels of light transmission for windscreens and other windows. The intent of the Regulation is to ensure that drivers have a clear view of the road, other traffic and pedestrians so as to enable them to drive safely.

Detail

In order to have any real meaning it should be obvious that the Regulation applies to the whole of the substance through which light is transmitted – including both the glass and any other substance, including, for example, ‘film’, ‘tint’, or ‘any other substance applied to the windows’. (It is, incidentally, also clear that the light transmittance requirements apply irrespective of whether the incident light is passing either one way, or the other.)

This now closes the loophole under which we have been working, and effectively bans tinting windows beyond the 70% light transmission level originally prescribed.

We are now in an interesting position, the statute has been written, but until someone is taken to court and found guilty, the issue is not common law. So how do the Police and vehicle inspectorate proceed? Their guidelines recognise the difference between ‘light’ and ‘dark’ window tints, but despite much debate on safety the fitment of any film or substance will attract an enforcement policy.

Where such a vehicle is stopped and the window tints applied are such that the Visible Light Transmission level, when measured using an approved device falls to below prescribed levels, the following enforcement guidelines have been agreed with, and recommended, by the Government.

Above 30% Visible Light Transmission (Less Severe Window Tints)
The owner or driver of such a vehicle will be required to have the tinted film removed from the windows under the direction of either a Rectification Notice or a Delayed Prohibition Notice, A period of grace will apply for a limited number of days (normally ten) during which time the vehicle may be driven whilst the rectification work is to be completed. In either case, the vehicle will need to be inspected by either a Police Officer or Vehicle Inspectorate Officer to confirm that the glass has been restored to a compliant condition. Prosecution is unlikely in such circumstances provided the vehicle owner complies fully.

Below 30% Visible Light Transmission (Excessively dark Window Tints)
The owner or driver of such a vehicle may be issued with an Immediate Prohibition Notice and immediately prevented from driving the vehicle on public roads until the tints have been removed and either a Police Officer or Vehicle Inspectorate Officer confirms that the glass has been restored to a compliant condition. It is also possible, depending on the severity of the offence, that the owner may be prosecuted for driving a vehicle in a non-roadworthy or even a dangerous condition with the potential for Penalty Points and a Fine.
Driving such a vehicle on public roads before the tints have been removed and before a Prohibition Notice has been lifted will be a serious offence and the owner or driver is likely to be prosecuted.

It should be noted that this directive is unlikely to apply to the fitment of safety film, as applied properly it has a negligible effect on the light transmission of the window.

Sol-Ace Customers – From the beginning of 2004, all customers of Sol-Ace that enquire about window tinting will be informed about the new Regulations and the ramifications.

We continue to support the opinion that a light tinting does not effect safety, and will support appeals to that affect. In the interim we will continue to advise customers within the law.