Cops face a potentially life-threatening situation each time they pull over a car with illegally tinted windows.
“When you’re walking up to a car, if you can’t see the driver, and if you can’t see their hands, you can’t tell what they’re doing, it presents a bit of an issue, especially if they don’t want to be stopped,” said Ottawa police Const. Jim Casey of the traffic escort unit.
“If they happen to be a bad guy, you know, someone with a criminal record, potentially, they could be doing anything, pointing a gun at you or whatever, and you won’t be able to see it,” Casey continued.
“If it was a suspicious vehicle with a little higher risk than usual, it would make it even worse.”
Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof calls tinted windows a safety concern for all officers.
Many cops in the U.S. have been critically injured or killed during routine traffic stops because they couldn’t see inside the vehicle.
Sometimes there’s no weapon involved, however, the driver is trying to stash drugs or booze.
“People do drive around drinking,” said Casey.
“It’s illegal to have an open bottle of booze in the car. Even if they’re not drunk, they can’t drive around, but people do do that. It’s unbelievable.”
The sections of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act related to window tinting came into effect in 1973, ministry of transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols wrote in an e-mail.
“The safety of all road users is a top priority for Ontario. Key stakeholders are always consulted before any law is put into place, including the police,” Nichols said.
Window tinting is addressed in Sections 73 and 74 of the HTA “whereby the surface of the windshield or any side window to the left or right of the driver cannot be coated with any colour spray or other colour coating in such a manner as to obstruct the driver’s view of the roadway, or obscure the view from outside to the interior of the motor vehicle.”
Police officers “use their judgement to determine if the amount of window tint obstructs the driver’s view or obstructs the view of an officer looking into the vehicle,” Nichols wrote.
Casey said he tickets two or three cars each week, dinging them with a $110 fine.
Demerit points aren’t attached, something Casey would like to see changed.