Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Sunshades can make
windows in cars too dark

Question: I know the automobile tint law calls for 35 percent light transmittance on all windows for cars, but I see cars carrying children in the back seat with sunshades, which you cannot see either from inside or outside the car. I want to put a nonpermanent, static-cling type shade to my car window. Would I get a ticket because my car already has tint and I'm applying more protection on the glass?

Answer: "Whatever you do to the windows must have a net effect of allowing at least 35 percent light transmittance," said an official with the state Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Safety Office.

He pointed to the state law (Hawaii Revised Statutes 291-21.5) that says you're not supposed to "install, mount, adhere, affix, or use any sun screening device or combination of devices in conjunction with the glazing material of a motor vehicle," which doesn't meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety "Standards 205."

The DOT official explained that the federal standard referred to "requires motor vehicle manufacturers to install car windows that have at least 70 percent light transmittance."

However, he pointed out that state law allows light transmittance of "no less than 35 percent, plus or minus 6 percent" -- except for the windshield -- when using sun-screening devices in conjunction with the manufacturer's glaze, for "the front side wing vents and windows" and for "side windows necessary for driving visibility which are to the rear of the driver and for rear windows necessary for driving visibility."

Meanwhile, he said it is illegal to put any tint on windshields below the "AS-1 mark" set by federal law, or lower than four inches from the top of the windshield.

Asked about vehicles that appear to have tinted windshields, the transportation official said safety inspections are supposed to include a test to make sure the "glazing material" and any sun-screening devices meet regulations. You could be assessed $50 to $250 for each violation.

"If you have seen a lot of tinted windshields, it may be that the ambient lighting conditions made the windshield appear to be tinted when it really was not," the official said.

The state tinting law does not apply to side windows to the rear of the driver and rear windows on vans, minivans, trucks, or buses, so long as these vehicles have rearview mirrors on both sides.

The transportation official said people are sometimes confused when they see an MPV (multipurpose passenger vehicle, such as vans), with darker tint on the windows to the rear of the driver.

These MPVs, according to the federal definition, are designed to carry 10 or fewer persons and are built either on a truck chassis or with special features for off-road operation, he said.

"Since MPVs are built on a truck chassis, they need only meet the truck requirements for tinting," he explained. "All the windows of a car are considered necessary for safe driving, but only the windows to the front and side of the driver of a truck are considered necessary."

He said sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are similar, "but have more truck characteristics than van characteristics."


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