ST. GEORGE — Window tinting laws have been a source of debate since they were enacted in 2005, and a bill to amend tinting standards across the beehive state has hit the legislature for the third year in a row.
Utah has the third most restrictive window tinting standards among the states that have mandated standards. The state also has one of the most restrictive tinting laws west of the Mississippi, second only to California.
Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, is trying to change that with a bill to revise the state’s tint laws by introducing an amendment that would lower the permissible visible light transmittance on vehicle side windows to 25% — down from the current law which allows 43%.
The Tinted Vehicle Windows Amendments, known officially this session as HB 170, would allow for significantly less light to enter the vehicle, giving occupants more privacy.
This is the second year Lyman has attempted to change the law due to the “overwhelming support for the bill,” received when it ran last year, Lyman said in an email to St. George News.
The bill, H.B. 289, did not pass in 2019.
He added that a majority of the opposition to the bill comes from the law enforcement community, “but even they are divided,” he said, especially those who live in communities that border other states — almost all of which allow a darker tint than Utah permits.
While there are many identifiable benefits to allowing darker tints, including lower car temperatures in hot climates, reduced glare from sun and snow, protection from harmful UV rays that affect a person’s skin, as well as the interior of the vehicle — to Lyman, it is more than that.
“The bottom line is that a person’s vehicle is private property,” he said.
He went on to say the bill has more to do with rights than the amount of light legally allowed to enter a vehicle, adding that “individual property rights are slowly being eroded.” And even though window tinting is a small matter for most people, it is one that “highlights the balance between self-governance versus compulsion by the state.”
He also said under Utah’s current law, a window with 44% tint “is practically no tint.”
The fact that border states allow for darker tint than the beehive state demonstrates that Utah’s tint laws are “arbitrary” he said, which means they are based on random choice rather than any reason or system.
Opponents of the bill contend that darker window tint prevent police officers from seeing what the driver is doing, especially when the windows are not rolled down as soon as they have been pulled over, and illegal window tint can often be used to conceal a drug deal or other illegal activities.
Additionally, illegal window tint is a tremendous safety risk for police officers at roadblocks or when pulling over a car.
In 2018, Utah State Senator Lincoln Fillmore introduced SB 102 to the committee, where he requested the visible light be lowered to 25%.
“An argument you’re going to hear today is that this is going to create safety problems; that it’s going to reduce visibility, lead to more accidents and highway fatalities,” Fillmore said to the Committee on Business and Labor in 2018. “There’s just no correlation between the amount of window tinting and the highway safety per vehicle miles traveled.”
The bill, HB 170, was introduced on Jan. 22 and has been sent to the House Transportation Committee for input.
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