Are your tinted windows legal? Here is what the law allows

In most cases, Washington state law says that any sunscreening material on windows must allow at least 24 percent light transmission -- that means that 24 percent or more of the total visible light that falls on the window must be able to pass thr
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In most cases, Washington state law says that any sunscreening material on windows must allow at least 24 percent light transmission -- that means that 24 percent or more of the total visible light that falls on the window must be able to pass thr
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How dark is too dark when it comes to your car’s tinted windows?

August 06, 2017 08:00 AM

Q: A lot of vehicles have such dark windows you can’t possibly see what the occupant is doing. It seems to me there should be a law prohibiting dark windows. Is there? — Pam S.

A: Short answer: Yes, there is a state law limiting how dark your windows can be.

On weeks as hot as the one we just had, a lot of people probably wish they had tinted windows. Drivers who have them are probably grateful for the extra sun protection they can provide and for the shade they offer while your car sits out in a hot parking lot all day.

They also look sleek, and, in the era of Washington’s new distracted driving law, darkly tinted windows probably make it easier to use your cellphone while driving without being detected by law enforcement.

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But there are limits to how tinted your side windows can be, and driving with windows that are too dark can get you a $124 ticket, according to Loretta Cool, spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department.

And, yes, it’s a primary offense, meaning you can be pulled over simply for having windows that are too tinted, Cool said.

Darkened windows also can be dangerous, making it difficult for other drivers to see into or through your windows to possible oncoming traffic.

According to Washington state law, in most cases, a tinted window must allow at least 24 percent of the light that hits the glass to come through. When it comes to windshields, only the top six inches can be darker than the rest of the windshield.

Cool said the department’s traffic enforcement officers carry a guide that can be used to determine whether too much tint has been applied.

“The main thing is you need to be able to see into and out of the windows to drive, and it’s nice when you’re in a crosswalk to see the driver is actually looking at you,” she said. “When the windows are tinted the wrong way, you can’t see that.

“Even when you come to a four-way stop, you always want to make sure the driver can see you. And if you can’t see into that window, that’s a big safety concern.”

There are exceptions. Some vehicles that are allowed to have darker tint include hearses, collector vehicles, limousines, passenger buses, motor homes and ambulances.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud