Two things in particular are stressful to police in performing their duties because they are uncertain what they might be encountering. Those are domestic disturbances and approaching a vehicle with extremely tinted windows.
But could there be changes ahead for Idaho’s vehicle window tinting regulations? “We proposed some changes earlier this year during the legislative session, but we ended up pulling the proposals and not trying to get them passed,” said Idaho State Police (ISP) Capt. Danny Bunderson, Idaho Falls. “We’re studying these types of safety laws in other states right now, and we don’t want to rush anything through the legislative process. I suspect we will have our studies completed in 2014 and may have proposed changes for the Legislature by 2015.”
Tint violations are an infraction with a penalty of $67, which can be assessed to the driver as well as the person or place that installed the illegal tint. Police have a device to test window tinting though, as a practical rule, police can usually tell for themselves if a window tint does meet state standards.
Idaho's window tint law went into effect in 1992, Idaho Code 49-944. Windshields, for example, cannot have tinting applied six inches below the top of the windshield. According to ISP, “non-reflective window tinting film or sun screening devices on the front side windows to the immediate right and left of the driver, front side vents, and the rear window cannot have less than 35 percent light transmission. Non-reflective window tinting film or sun screening devices on the side windows to the rear of the driver cannot have less than 20 percent light transmission.” There is a 3 percent allowance for variations in tinting.
All 50 states have some sort of tinting legislation with Idaho’s current law falling within the standards used in most of the states. Idaho also has a medical exception. Upon written verification by a licensed physician, tinting can exceed the state limits.
Again, according to ISP, “The focus behind the tint law is to provide safety for law enforcement officers and other first responders as they approach vehicles during traffic stops. Tint that is too dark makes it virtually impossible to see inside the vehicle, putting an officer at a disadvantage when trying to see the driver and passenger movements.”
But despite the fact that the intent of Idaho’s current tint laws places emphasis on the needs of officers and other first responders, some transportation officials in Idaho believe that it is every bit as important for drivers to be able to see each other as it is for first responders to see vehicle occupants. Some even suggest that the inability for drivers to see each other can be a partial cause of collisions.
“There’s no doubt that window tint that is too dark could a contributing factor to collisions,” Bunderson told IdahoReporter.com. “The inability for drivers to see each other (due to tinting) may not the sole cause of an accident, but I suspect that such conditions could be a contributing factor.”
According to a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Transportation, Reed Hollinshead, a tinting law was deemed necessary in the 1990s due to visibility problems for both officers and fellow drivers. “The ability to look into the car, and visibility from the car looking out (especially in low light) are the main issues with tinting,” he said. He added that visibility problems of this sort are what led to the state’s tinting laws in the first place. “The tinting was getting so dark that it was certainly a safety issue, and that's one of the main reasons standards were enacted.”