Ottawa Police want power to test the tint on your car window
Published Tuesday, March 10, 2015 5:21PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:58PM EDT
An Ottawa police officer is pushing for a law that would allow police to test the tint on your car window.
Sgt. Mark Gatien says the issue is safety, both for police officers and pedestrians. Ontario's law is pretty old on this and has not been updated since 1990. But technology has changed to tint car windows and to test how much light is getting through.
At Audiomotive in Ottawa’s south end, between three and five cars a day drive in to the shop, to have their factory-tinted windows darkened.
Most new cars come off the line with front windows already darkened to allow only 70% of the light to pass through but a quick glance around any street in Ontario and it is easy to spot cars that have gone well beyond that level.
Joel Tosky’s vehicle is an example of that. Audiomotive employee Chance Dake tests his front windows with a photometric meter.
‘Joel, I’m going to test your windows,’ he says as he places the meter over the lip of the front window.
‘You’re at 12% on the front window.’
‘I have valuables in my car,’ says Tosky, ‘I don't want people looking in my windows. It’s not like I’m doing anything illegal.’
But police say they don't know that when they approach a car, especially when they can't see the driver.
‘If I can't see what's going on as I approach a car,’ says Sergeant Mark Gatien, ‘who knows what's behind there waiting for me.’
Sgt. Gatien, with the Ottawa Police Traffic Enforcement Unit, is behind a movement that would allow police to use photometric meters to measure the tint on your car. He demonstrates to CTV Ottawa how the equipment works on a car with windows that are clearly darkened.
‘We’re getting a reading of 28, which would be a fail on the front windows,’ says Gatien.
That figure means 28% of existing light is making it through to the interior. Gatien is pushing for no more than 70%, as it is in Quebec and several US states. Anything less could mean a fine, if this becomes law. Ontario’s current law is vague. If an officer can't clearly describe the occupants of drivers' compartment, then police can approach to tell them their windows are too dark. But Gatien says because the law has not been updated with any new technology, it is up to a justice of the peace to decide whether he or she will even entertain a charge. The fine is $110.
‘$110 is sufficient,’ says Gatien, ‘If they chose not to take it off (the tinting), I can tag the same person over and over again.’
Gatien says approving this subsection of the law would improve safety for both police and pedestrians. Pedestrians we spoke with agreed.
‘Well, I can’t make eye contact with them,’ says Louise Card as she was crossing an Ottawa street, ‘when I want to go across, especially at a stop with no lights and you're looking to go across and you want to catch their eye.’
‘I mean if somebody ran into me, I’d like for someone to be able to describe who they are,’ says another pedestrian, ‘but with some of the tinted windows, you can’t do that. But I do like tinted windows myself,’ he adds.
If Gatien’s idea is approved, it would mean Joel Tosky's car, and almost every car in the Audiomotive tinting shop, wouldn't pass the test.
Employee Chance Dake says the law is a direct attack on businesses like theirs.
‘It's like wearing sunglasses,’ Dake says, as he applies an adhesive tinting to a vehicle, ‘are they going to tell us to stop wearing sunglasses because they can't see our eyes?’
Bill 31, Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, has passed second reading and is currently in the committee state, hearing proposals like Sgt. Mark Gatien’s to amend the Act before it becomes law.