- RACV does not encourage motorists to have their vehicle's windows tinted. Window tinting can reduce a driver's visibility in certain driving environments and this has the potential to decrease road safety.
- As an alternative to window tinting, RACV recommends drivers and passengers wear sunglasses as an equally effective means of reducing excessive glare.
- RACV believes there is a lack of evidence that tinting provides any significant benefits in keeping a car cool. Features such as air conditioning will do this job more effectively.
- RACV does not support a change to the current required minimum levels of light transmittance through vehicle windows, as currently prescribed by Victorian roadworthy regulations. As yet, no solid evidence exists to show that this would reduce the number of crashes on the road.
- RACV calls on window tinting businesses to ensure their work complies with roadworthy requirements. RACV also advises consumers who choose to have tinting applied to their vehicle to seek assurances their vehicle will remain in a roadworthy state as a result of the tinting.
Window tinting is the plastic film that is often applied to vehicle windows, other than the front windscreen, as an aftermarket product. It is not typically available as a factory-fit option on new cars. It is most commonly offered as an aftermarket product by dealers and independent operators. It is made of polyester and is applied to the inside of the vehicle's windows using an adhesive.
Tinting has the effect of darkening the windows' appearance. Considerable debate has centred around the pros and cons of window tinting.
Figures from 1994 highlight the size of the Australian tinting industry:
- There were more than 160,000 passenger vehicles being tinted in Australia every year,
- More than 1.2 million or 15 percent of all registered passenger vehicles in Australia were at that stage already treated with window film,
- The industry had an annual turnover of $50 million and employed 2,000 people nationwide.
why do people have their windows tinted?
There are a number of reasons motorists choose to tint their vehicle's windows, including:
- A perceived reduction in glare from the sun during the daytime,
- A perceived reduction in heat being transmitted into the vehicle by the sun during the daytime,
- A perceived subsequent reduction in load on the vehicle's air conditioning system, as a result of the reduction in heat entering the vehicle,
- An increase in privacy for the vehicle's occupants, since people cannot see inside the vehicle's tinted windows as clearly as with non-tinted windows; and
- A desire to increase the aesthetic appearance of their vehicle.
Critics of window tinting have raised the following arguments:
- Reduced driver vision through tinted side windows, particularly in twilight and night-time conditions, is argued by some to present a safety risk to both the occupants of vehicles with tinted windows, as well as to other road users,
- The perceived benefits of a reduction of heat entering into the vehicle and a subsequent reduction in load on the air conditioning system are often exaggerated by tinting advocates,
- The reduction in ultra-violet (UV) light and any resulting reduction in glare as a result of window tinting are minimal, and
- The loss of any potential eye contact between driver of window tinted vehicles and other road users represents a safety risk.
addressing the arguments for and against window tinting
The perceived benefits of window tinting relate primarily to daytime driving. However unlike wearing sunglasses, drivers cannot remove tinting when driving in the night. Studies have identified that night driving presents a disproportionate risk, compared to daytime driving.
Tinting critics have raised the issue of threshold contrast: drivers' ability to detect low contrast objects such as cyclists and pedestrians, particularly at night time. Criticism has been aimed at window tinting for increasing the risk of these types of road users being struck in conditions of poor visibility, primarily during the night.
reducing discomfort glare
Advocates for window tinting have argued that tinting reduces daytime glare in sunny conditions. This is true, however at a much lower cost, drivers are able to achieve the same reductions in glare by wearing sunglasses.
reducing the risk of skin cancer
Window tinting advocates have argued that tinting cuts out ultraviolet (UV) rays, which in turn represents a lower risk of contracting skin cancer and other associated skin diseases. In fact, untinted window glass cuts out most harmful UV rays.
effect of window tinting on vehicles' air conditioning and fuel consumption
Various industry groups have argued in favour of window tinting, including as a benefit its positive effect on cooling vehicles, reducing the load on air conditioning systems and fuel consumption levels. Tinting critics have argued that studies have shown temperature reductions of only around one degree in a moving vehicle as a result of having tinting and that the corresponding reduction on air conditioner load was almost insignificant.
window tinting and older drivers
Window tinting is known to reduce threshold contrast, as discussed above. Natural degradation of older drivers' vision is known also to have the same effect. Although difficult to quantify at present, the combination of these two effects is likely to present a greater risk of collision for older drivers.
Victorian roadworthy requirements - window tinting
VicRoads state that all motor vehicles manufactured after July 1971 are required to comply with Australian Design Rule (ADR) 8/00 - Safety Glazing Material. This rule states that:
- Windscreens must transmit at least 75 percent of visible light in the primary vision area (which excludes a small area along the top of the windscreen, as detailed in ADR 8/00),
- All other windows other than the windscreen must transmit at least 35 percent of visible light.
- No window fitted with tinting film must produce a reflectance value of more than 10 percent (a typical value for untreated glass).
- It is not permitted to add tinting to the primary vision area of the front windscreen.
It has been argued that the minimum level for front side windows should also be raised to 75 percent (it is currently 35 percent). This would effectively prohibit the use of tinting film on them. However there is as yet no clear evidence to suggest that raising this level would reduce the number of crashes on the road.
Motorists are advised to ensure that any tinting treatment either existing or to be applied to their vehicle will not render their vehicle unroadworthy. This will occur if the light transmittance values fall below the roadworthy limits described above.
Many vehicle service centres, including RACV Service Centres, can check whether a window is roadworthy or not with the use of an appropriate light meter.
avoiding window tinting pitfalls
While a particular brand of tinting film may transmit enough light to be considered roadworthy, it must continue to do so when applied to the window. Car windows have a degree of 'tinting' permanently built-in to the laminate. A motorist who chooses to have tinting film applied to their vehicle should ensure the tinting service provider has guaranteed that the vehicle will not become unroadworthy as a result of having the tinting applied. This 'cumulative effect' is often overlooked by providers of window tinting.
Another pitfall is the 'bubble effect', where the tinting film separates from the window as well as scratches and general deterioration of the tinting film, over time. These conditions further reduce visibility and may render the vehicle unroadworthy. Motorists who choose to have tinting applied should ensure the tinting provider offers a suitable warranty to cover this problem.