A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

At risk when we can’t see drivers’ eyes

Written October 31st, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Is somebody sitting in this car, looking your way? No, but you can’t tell because of the window tint.

Riding a bike and approaching intersections on Albany streets, it’s reassuring to see that drivers are looking at you and can see you. Too often, though, drivers are hidden because the side windows of their cars have a dark tint.

I’ve been wondering about the legality of tinted windows every time I encounter one, but that’s not a good time to take a photo. Wandering around a car lot in Medford earlier this month, I finally thought to take a shot to illustrate my point (see above).

Oregon has a law for everything, so you won’t be surprised that there are laws about this as well.

“Oregon has window tint laws,” ODOT declares in an online list of frequently asked questions about window tinting. “The total light transmittance through the window with the tint installed must be 35 percent or more.”

Motorists in vehicles that don’t comply with this standard supposedly face a fine of up to $360, according to ODOT. But have you ever heard of anyone who was cited and paid the fine? Me neither.

This seems to be the same kind of traffic law as not having a loud muffler or not parking on the left side of the street, meaning a law widely ignored and rarely enforced.

As for allowed tints that block up to 65 percent of light passing through, can people see through those windows to determine which way the driver is looking? I doubt it.

ODOT asks: “Why are dark windows a safety concern?”

And it answers: “Dark tinted windows make it very difficult for law enforcement to view the inside of cars during traffic stops. Unlawful motorists may try to conceal weapons behind the tinted glass, putting police officers at grave risk.”

Of course. Makes sense. But the same goes for people whose safety in traffic, especially at intersections, depends on seeing which way drivers turn their heads and their gaze.

On the side front windows, no tint should be allowed at all. (hh)

23 responses to “At risk when we can’t see drivers’ eyes”

  1. Cap B. says:

    I thought no tint was allowed on the side front windows. That’s the way it used to be, I think. So, the law probably has been changed to satisfy the big auto manufacturers and the young consumers. Well, it is a hell of a law and should be repealed.

  2. Tim Graves says:

    I agree. What is true for bicyclists is true for runners and other pedestrians. Tinted windows negatively impact tge ability to assess our own safety.

  3. Deborah Swenson says:

    Completely agree Hasso. These laws should not be ignored.

  4. Lynn says:

    I completely agree with you, Hasso! Completely agree!!

  5. William Ayers says:

    Always try to see drivers eyes even while driving. In Arizona there was enforcement, as I recall . Sun intensity and do it yourself window tinting made tickets a thing.

  6. Hartman says:

    If the nation was serious about gun control, police would not have to fear what lies behind tinted windows. But instead of good and rigid gun control, we are forced to listen to why bicyclists feel threatened. Talk about misguided thinking.

    • Tom says:

      Gun control as you put it, will not stop criminals from using them. They will find a way to get a gun and use it. That is their intent. They do not care about laws. I don’t,’ believe we are forced to listen to bicyclists whining about tinted windows. I feel that other drivers should be concerned what certain drivers are doing, especially at intersections. Some drivers don’t know the laws such as yielding, etc. If they just sit there or are trying to wave to you to move on, how will you know if you can’t see them, And yes, there’s always the possibility that other drivers have malicious intent. Can’t tell if you can’t see them.

  7. Eric says:

    Thing is, laws against doing drugs in public, urinating or deficating in public, littering, and illegal camping are not being enforced. Petty theft and vandalism are not being prosecuted. So on the totem pole of importance, tinted windows are about as low as it can get.

  8. Tim says:

    My son need window tint for his eye not mentioned in article. U can get prescription for tinted.windows if light gives u migrains or a.medical reason.. he get pull over all the time for that

  9. Jeff B. Senders says:

    Making eye contact is essential for safe driving, I need to do this almost daily while using the railroad underpass at Bryant Park, as this underpass only allows for one vehicle at a time. Albany is fortunate to have Shelly Boshart Davis as its State Rep. As the owner of a Trucking Company, she would probably concur that tinted windows are a safety hazard. Seen any tinted window on any Semi’s lately?

  10. thomas earl cordier says:

    “The total light transmittance through the window with the tint installed must be 35 percent or more.” So how can that be measured by anybody? I agree front windows should never be tinted. I fear for myself when nearby that type.
    Perhaps hh would ask police how to enforce 35%.

  11. Carolee Gascoigne says:

    Totally agree !!!
    We have laws but enforcement is the issue. We don’t see much of ANY type of enforcement going on anymore

  12. F. Phillips says:

    I don’t think its so much of the tinted windows as for the pedestrians they think just because there walking or riding a bicycle they don’t need to pay attention. they ride on the wrong side of the street side, walks. they ride on cross walks. it takes a lot to pay attention on everything and everyone. i think people and Bicycle need to be the one to pay attention more so because they can stop easier and faster.

  13. kss says:

    If there’s an accident (hopefully not), then the tinted windows wrong value is taken into account and it leads to the car owner having to pay for the damages and much more. So it’s not worth the risk, imho. But people don’t think of such things.

    It also reminds me of cyclists not walking their bike across cross-walks, if they bike and there’s an accident, it was a fault of the biker, unfortunately.

  14. John doe says:

    There are bigger fish to fry than window tint.

  15. Richard H. Smith says:

    Just one of many unenforced traffic laws! There also is a law requiring front license plates on all cars, but there are lots of them running around. (I guess Tesla owners don’t think it applies to them, or just can’t afford to put them on…they are the worst offenders). How about bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the street, and ignoring traffic signals, stop signs, helmet laws, etc.?

    But the “big picture” is realizing what we need police to enforce more, with strained resources. Our population has grown, without commensurate increases in police staffing. The out-of-control homeless issues, rampant and blatant drug use, and impaired driving seem to me to be bigger issues than ignoring window tinting, missing license plates, loud stereos, etc.

    In a perfect world maybe it could be corrected, but in the meantime we have to accept reality. Take care.

  16. John Allen says:

    Ditto. What Hasso said.

  17. Jason says:

    The bigger issue for biking safety is following the rules of the road. Riding a bike on the sidewalk instead of the bike lane, riding on the wrong side, ignoring traffic and traffic control devices are far more dangerous. We’re over-regulated as it is, this gripe is completely unnecessary. Just enforce the laws we already have.

  18. Randall says:

    As a runner, bike rider, walker and 32 years as a police officer in Los Angeles, I really hate dark tinted windows on vehicles. I don’t know about Oregon, but it is against the law in California.

    It is always dangerous for bikers, walkers and runners and especially law enforcement. But don’t think you are going to get APD to begin a huge campaign to attack tinted car windows. They have too much to do even in small town Albany. Keep your eyes open and don’t trust that the driver sees you.

  19. Bill Kapaun says:

    ” The total light transmittance through the window with the tint installed must be 35 percent or more.”

    Without specifying some parameters such as wave length or “visible spectrum”, the term “total light transmittance” might be debatable. A good portion of “all light” is INVISIBLE”.

  20. Cap B. says:

    How can the police enforce the “distracted driver” law when they can’t see if the driver is talking on his cell phone, or pointing a gun at someone, for that matter! Speaking of what is the law in Oregon and California, having 50 states with disparate traffic laws is a cluster (you fill in the next word)! When the union was formed and there were 13 states (or less) every state having their own laws probably seemed fine. But, it isn’t. However, I’m not advocating for changing that. That would never happen in today’s world.


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