Nonsense Laws: Window Tint

This has nothing to do with religion but I’m kind of worked up over it and wanted to share some thoughts. Last night I was pulled over by a very courteous and friendly police officer who was (a) admiring my Mustang and (b) wondering if my windows were tinted too dark.  They are, and I’m fully aware of this.  However, I’ve chosen not to rectify the situation because I feel that the law makes no sense.  I’ve essentially agreed that any tickets I may receive for my tinted windows are a tax for keeping my window tint.  That aside, I’ll detail all of my thoughts on the law below and would love to have some feedback from my readers (if any are still hanging around).

Tinted Mustang
How you doin’?

The Missouri State statute governing window tint is RSMo. 307.173.
The City of Crestwood ordinance mirroring the state’s law is 14-133 (pdf).

None of the texts I’ve read give any reasoning for this law; they simply state the requirements and exclusions.  Because no reasons are given I’ve made some assumptions of my own:

  1. Window tinting darker than 35% constitutes a safety hazard to a law enforcement officer (LEO) during a traffic stop
  2. Window tinting darker than 35% obstructs the view of the driver, constituting a safety hazard to other motorists
  3. Window tinting darker than 35% obstructs the view of other drivers looking for a clear lane around the offending vehicle
  4. Window tinting darker than 35% makes it difficult, if not impossible, to make eye contact with other drivers, creating a safety hazard

Here are my refutations for each of these reasons:

Safety of LEOs

This could only possibly be the case if the LEO had cause to stop the offending vehicle in the first place.  Assuming that the offending vehicle was registered, licensed, observing traffic laws, and in good working condition there would be no reason for an LEO to stop the offending vehicle in the first place.  Without a traffic stop, the offending vehicle and its occupants constitute no conceivable threat to a LEO. Furthermore, because all other windows on a vehicle may be tinted at any level (including “limo tint” at 5%), even a vehicle with legal tint could constitute a threat to a LEO via the passengers in the rear seats of the vehicle (for instance, an SUV or minivan with dark tint on only the five rear windows).  Because these vehicles are still legal with window tinting darker than 35% on all rear windows, this first argument falls flat.

Driver’s Obstructed View

If this were a valid argument against window tinting, then the statute could not allow for tinting darker than 35% on windows other than those directly to the left and right of the driver.  Because the statute allows all windows except those to the left and right of the driver to be tinted at any level, any risk of reduced visibility would apply to those windows as well.  In addition, since the statute also allows permits for those windows to the left and right of the driver to be tinted darker than 35%, this argument against tinting also falls flat.  If one driver’s vision would be impaired without a permit, then certainly another driver’s vision would be identically impaired with a permit.

Other Motorists’ Obstructed View

Again, this argument would only apply to three of a possible six or more windows on a vehicle and is invalidated by permits.  If any of those windows can be tinted darker than 35% then the obstruction of other drivers’ vision would apply to all windows and not just the two to the left and right of the driver.  In addition, the offending vehicle’s windows aren’t the only factor involved in visibility to other drivers.  The vehicle’s size more often makes it difficult for other drivers to see around a vehicle, regardless of window tint.  There are, however, no comparable restrictions to the size of a vehicle.  Because there is a lack of evidence to support an argument like this, this argument also falls flat.

Eye Contact

This argument assumes that eye contact with other drivers constitutes a sizable portion of road safety.  There’s no evidence to support such a claim.  If there were, sunglasses would also be prohibited by this statute.  Because the statute does not prohibit sunglasses of any darkness, this argument also falls flat.


 

Additionally, I’m stating that the following arguments make a case for eliminating this law on the grounds that there are no perceived benefits to enforcing it (aside from revenue generation, and how can that be a valid reason for a law?):

Cooling

There is evidence to suggest that window tinting aids in lowering the interior temperature of a vehicle – if only slightly.  Whether or not the cooling effect is substantial, a vehicle owner may find it worthwhile to apply tinting for this reason. In addition, a car with a leather or vinyl interior will benefit from the reduced direct sunlight on seating surfaces, making the car at least slightly more comfortable to occupy.

UV Radiation

Window tinting film blocks ultraviolet rays, benefitting the occupants of the car with increased comfort and reduced exposure to harmful radiation while driving.  There is evidence to suggest that skin cancer occurs more frequently on the left side of the body due to the direct exposure through the driver’s window.

Shatter-Proofing

Window tinting film adhered to the inside of a window adds an extra layer of shatter-proofing above and beyond the manufacturer’s glazing.  This benefits the occupants of the vehicle in case of a collision.

Glare

Window tinting reduces glare from direct sunlight and may help with eye strain and fatigue from squinting into the sun.

Interior Preservation

Window tinting reduces the sun’s effects on a vehicle’s interior surfaces, helping to preserve leather and vinyl and retain the vehicle’s value for resale.

Appearance

Window tinting enhances the exterior look of a vehicle, often causing a seeming transformation between a car that is so-so to one that is noticeable and attractive.  Many owners appreciate having a vehicle that stands out in a crowd.  That’s not a crime.

Misuse of Resources

In the absence of solid arguments against window tinting, one can only come to the conclusion that citations for window tinting are frivolous and that the resources involved in a traffic stop for window tinting actively detract from the resources used to stop actual crimes.

Harassment

In the absence of solid arguments against window tinting, a vehicle owner may come to feel that being stopped by a LEO solely for window tinting constitutes harassment.  This kind of feeling breaks down the relationship between citizen and LEO, particularly since the LEO motto is “to protect and serve” – not “to harass and make your life miserable.”

What, if any, fault do you find with this reasoning?  Feel free to comment or e-mail me to discuss the window tint law.

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