External Viewing of Vehicle Contents Under Varying Window Tinting and Illumination Conditions

Report No: 95-R3

Published in 1995

About the report:

The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which motor vehicle window tint films impede a police officer's ability to see clearly into a stopped vehicle. Three hundred and twenty subjects were asked to view the contents and occupants of one of four experimental cars. One car had no aftermarket tint film and three had varying degrees of tinted windows. Although similar experiments have been conducted in the past, all yielded equivocal results because of methodological flaws. This experiment attempted to correct some of those problems and to simulate standard procedures used in traffic stops by the Virginia State Police. In general, this study found that the ability of subjects to detect occupants and objects in vehicles was substantially diminished as the level of window tinting increased. However, the detrimental effects of window tinting on viewing occupants and objects within a vehicle at night were substantially reduced when headlights and a spotlight were shone at the stopped vehicle, as would be the case in a traffic stop.

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, Jane Joseph, Mukul Bhalla, Frank Durgin, Marco Bertamini, Jack D. Jernigan, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: December 18, 2023

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