Car window tinting legislation explained

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Most countries have some form of legislation governing car window tint in terms of how dark the glass can be. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is all about visibility, that is both the ability of the driver to see what is happening while they are driving (especially in low light conditions) and the ability of other road users to gauge the intentions of that same driver.

This last one is a particular concern of more vulnerable road users, and by this we mean pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike/moped riders. These three road users need to have a heightened awareness of the vehicles around them and the intentions of car drivers, and will often establish eye contact as a way of making sure they have been seen and can proceed safely. This can be a bit hard where you can’t see the driver because of a very dark tint! Other reasons are related to law enforcement, so that law enforcement officers (and the general public) can see inside the car to make sure no crime is being committed (eg illegal driving, abduction etc).

So, if we accept the need for legislation on window tinting, understanding how it works in Australia is another matter! In very general terms…

  • All states in Australia prohibit aftermarket tinting of the windscreen
  • Tinting is permitted on all other windows, but the darkness of the permitted tint varies from state to state
  • Commercial vehicles such as vans and trucks also have different window tinting rules

The reason for the variation in permissible window tint between states is probably related to the intensity of the sunlight in that state (as perceived by the legislators in each state) but it certainly is a cause for some confusion on the part of vehicle owners who drive interstate and – we think – there’s a lot to be said for harmonising the regulations so one set of rules applies Australia wide. But right now we’re stuck with slightly different rules between states.

The darkness of a window tint is measured in terms of ‘Visible Light Transmission’ or ‘VLT’ (sometimes also referred to as ‘light transmittance factor’), generally measured in percentages. ‘T35’ for example means that 35% of the visible light is transmitted into the interior of the car. So T20 is darker than T35.

In Queensland the Department of Transport and Main Roads legislation stipulates…

  • Tint on the windscreen can only be applied to the area above the arc of the windscreen wipers or the upper 10% of the windscreen (whichever is the lesser) and there are no restrictions on VLT
  • A minimum light transmittance of 35% (T35 or VLT 35%) is required on the front (drivers side and passenger side) windows
  • Windows behind the driver’s position (ie behind the ‘B pillar’) must have a minimum light transmittance of 20% (T20) as long as the vehicle has side mirrors
  • Goods vehicles can have T0 tint behind the front windows as long as side mirrors are fitted

These rules only apply to ‘applied tint’ and where a vehicle already has factory-tinted glass, any additional window tinting film cannot result in the windows exceeding the levels listed above.

An interesting discrepancy is that Australian Design Rules (ADR) now permit so-called ‘privacy glass’ to be installed behind the B pillar and this glass is generally very dark (ie less than T20). Privacy glass is where the glass itself is tinted and this is OK, but any applied tinting must still meet the requirements above. So if you really want very dark tinting and stay the right side of the law, it has to be in the glass itself.

The only other main rule to be aware of is that any applied window tinting cannot have a reflectance of more than 10%.

The main area of variance between the states is in the permitted VLT or T level behind the B pillar – in Victoria and Tasmania this has to be a minimum of T35 and in all other states and territories except NT it must be a minimum of T20. NT permits T15.

What are the consequences of breaking the window tinting rules?

For a start you may be fined if the tint is found to be darker than the permitted level. So clearly you would have to pay the fine, but you would also need to have the tint film removed and then the vehicle rechecked by the authorities, perhaps after you have fitted another (legal) tint film. All of this involves some expense. The one thing you may not have thought of is that if you are involved in an accident and your car is found to have an illegal tint, your insurer may not pay up, particularly if restricted visibility may have been an issue, which it is likely to be in 99.99% of car accidents. More seriously, if an illegal tint is found to be a contributing factor in an accident, criminal charges may be laid.

So the moral of the story is to make sure with your window tinter that you are staying within the law. And at least you know what the rules are now.


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