Woman puts window tint law to the test

Woman puts window tint law to the test

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A local woman was pulled over and ticketed for a violation many drivers would not even be able to detect.

"I thought I had a tail light out," Jackie Marsden tells KATU after a motorcycle officer pulled her over in Vancouver. Instead, it was the tinting on her newly purchased Mazda Miata.

"He told me it was 4 percent too dark, and then wrote me a ticket for $124," Marsden said. "So I asked him, 'Can you just give me a warning, and I'll fix the problem?'" 

No luck.

Frustrated, the Vancouver woman turned to KATU to uncover why police care so much about the tinting on her car's glass. What we discovered is that a lot of drivers may be driving around illegally.

Marsden is especially frustrated because she bought the 2006 Miata, used, in Oregon. Then she put the car through the state-required inspections to bring it into Washington. Yet no one said anything about the tinting on her window.

So we checked in with the inspection agencies to see what happened. It turns out that neither state checks cars for road worthiness; the state patrol stopped checking road worthiness years ago.

The inspection agencies concern themselves only with whether the vehicle passes emissions and whether the vehicle is stolen.

So why do police care? "If you have illegal or dark tinted windows, the chances of you getting in an accident is much greater," said Sgt. Pat Johns with the Vancouver Police Traffic Division. Johns used one of a half dozen devices owned by Vancouver police to measure the tint on Marsden's car.

He also said officers can’t tell whether drivers in dark-tinted cars are armed.

In Washington, window tinting must allow 24 percent of light through. In Oregon the window-tint law is actually more strict: 35 percent of the exterior light must shine through.

Marsden's windows only allowed 20 percent of the exterior light into her Miata.

So how can you tell if your car is breaking the law? We called around and found a few shops that have the tint-measuring device.

Ultimate Window Tinting and Exclusive Films Auto Spa in Vancouver both can perform the test. We found both by doing a Google search for "window tinting vancouver washington" and placing calls to the listed businesses to find out for sure. Others could be found the same way.

So, next time you are out driving just look around and check out how many people have dark driver-side windows. Now we know that many of them are breaking the law, and most don't even know it.

Read up on window tinting laws in your state: