The Effects of Motor Vehicle Window Tinting on Traffic Safety and Enforcement: Final Report: A Report to the Governor and General Assembly in response to Senate Joint Resolution 293, 1993 Session

Report No: 94-R141

Published in 1994

About the report:

The 1993 Session of the Virginia General Assembly lessened restrictions relating to the application of aftermarket tinted window films to motor vehicle glass. Effective July 1, 1993, vehicles are allowed to have window tinting treatments that do not reduce the transmittance of light below 35% for rear and rear side windows and 50% for front side windows, but no aftermarket tinting may be applied to windshields. However, the new legislation allows lower transmittance levels for the windows on vehicles used by individuals with a medical waiver. The traffic safety community is concerned that aftermarket window tint film may increase the incidence of traffic crashes by limiting a driver's ability to see out of a vehicle, and it may compromise the safety of police officers by limiting an officer's ability to see into a vehicle that he or she has stopped. The window tinting industry, however, notes the lack of empirical evidence correlating window tinting and traffic crashes or police officer injuries or fatalities. The concerns of industry and the traffic safety community were balanced by the adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 293, which directed the Virginia Departments of Motor Vehicles and State Police to study the issue. The study found that window tinting reduces the ability to detect targets that would be difficult to see through clear glass, and this can be a liability when ambient lighting is low. In addition, the adverse effects of window tinting become increasingly pronounced as transmittance goes below 70%, particularly for people who wear spectacles and for older drivers. There is no evidence, however, that reduced visibility significantly affects drivers' performance during well-illuminated daytime hours. The difficulties are more likely to be manifested at night. Further, by reducing the amount of light transmittance, window tinting reduces the ability of an outside observer to see into a vehicle, which has led to the concerns about the safety of police officers. Although there are only limited optical benefits to be derived from window tinting and there are a number of potential optical detriments, there is no empirical evidence to indicate that the tinting allowed under Virginia's current laws creates a safety hazard in terms of driver performance. Thus, it is recommended that Virginia's new laws on window tinting not be changed unless compelling evidence that the standards compromise safety is found in the future. However, further research is recommended. It is also recommended that federal regulations and/or action by the states to achieve national uniformity be encouraged in order to promote uniformity in laws and regulations concerning aftermarket window tinting.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Dennis R. Proffitt, Jack D. Jernigan, Edward B. Parks, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: December 23, 2023

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