Windows Tinting Watertown New York
CHAMPLAIN — When Ted Tedford performs an annual inspection on a car or pickup truck now, he's got an extra task to perform.
Along with inspecting brakes, tires, lights and other numerous other items, the auto mechanic has to check the vehicle's window tinting to make sure it complies with the law.
"We had to buy a tint meter and use it on every vehicle that comes in, " said Tedford, owner of Tedford's Auto Repair on Route 11 in Champlain. "We have no choice."
LETTING LIGHT IN
According to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, neither the windshield nor front side windows are allowed to be too dark — they can't block more than 30 percent of the light.
The same goes for the rear window, the law says, unless the vehicle has outside rear-view mirrors on both sides.
"The mirrors must give the driver a full and clear view behind the vehicle, " says the State Department of Motor Vehicles website.
And the rear side windows of vehicles classified as passenger cars — as noted on the federal label found on the left front-door panel — must also let in at least 70 percent of the outside light.
Among them are station wagons, sedans, hardtops, coupes, hatchbacks and convertibles, the website says.
"It is illegal to sell, offer for sale or install glass that does not comply with this law, " the site notes.
"It is illegal to operate a vehicle with glass that does not comply with this law."
Tedford read up on the new law, finding some other details that he needs to know for proper inspections; for example, the percentage of light allowed varies depending on the age of the vehicle.
Those manufactured in 1991 and earlier can actually have up to 35 percent light blockage, while those newer are limited to 30 percent, he said.
Earlier this week, he ran his tint meter on about 15 random cars at his garage, coming up with visible light transmittance of between 77 and 82 percent, which easily passes the test.
Factory-built vehicles, he thinks, shouldn't be a problem.
But if a car owner has had the tint altered, Tedford said, "it's probably not going to pass."
The new inspection requirement, signed into law in November, requires inspection facilities that perform evaluations of light- and heavy-duty cars and trucks to purchase and use a meter that can "test light transmittance of all windows, not just those that roll down, " according to a message issued to all inspection stations by the DMV in early December.
Tedford paid about $150 for the one he uses, though the price can range as high as $300 or so, he said.
"This got dropped on us kind of quick, " he said Wednesday. "Now we've got to educate (people)."
The state, he said, "should have given us months to break it to the public."
And while it doesn't take long to perform the inspection, he added, "it's an extra thing to have to do."
Supporters of the legislation cited better motorist visibility, therefore more safety for both those in vehicles and pedestrians.
Plattsburgh City Police Lt. Brad Kiroy has driven cars with heavily tinted windows.
"There is a remarkable difference in your ability to see, " he said.
And from a law-enforcement perspective, the lieutenant said, cars with overly tinted windows are also a safety concern, "especially when you can't see the occupants in a vehicle."
When an officer can't see what they are doing, that can be problematic — for example, if someone has a gun.
"It can certainly add to the tension (of a traffic stop), " Kiroy said.
Police have long enforced window-tint regulations, carrying meters and ticketing those whose vehicles fail.
Kiroy didn't know the new inspection requirement was coming down the pike until late in 2016 but now understands why a tint-meter vendor asked the department to test some new units for the state several months ago.
SOME OUT THERE
If a vehicle fails the tint test, Tedford said, he can't grant a new inspection sticker until after the windows meet regulations.
Removing tinting can be problematic, he noted, because the sticky residue can gum up the works as the window is rolled up and down.
Tedford began window inspections this week, and because most of his customers are regulars and local folks, he doesn't expect to see many cars and trucks with too-dark glass.
"There's a few out there, I'm sure, " he said.
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There are some medical conditions that may qualify for an exemption to the state tinted-window law, among them porphyria, xeroderma pigmentosa and severe drug photo-sensitivity.