It keeps popping up in the police and sheriff blotter: Drivers who have illegally tinted windows.
In the space of just two days recently, the Osakis Police Department issued warnings to seven drivers for having their windows tinted too dark.
There's a reason that law enforcement takes a dim view of tinted windows. It's not to give drivers a hard time or an excuse to pull someone over. Sergeant Neil Dickenson of the State Patrol wrote about it in an "Ask a Trooper" column last week. He noted that window tint obstructs a driver's vision at night and during poor weather conditions. It is also a safety concern for law enforcement at night. Illegally tinted windows make it nearly impossible to see in the vehicle while conducting a traffic stop, Dickenson said.
Window tinting is also a concern for pedestrians and other drivers. If the tint is too dark, they won't be able to make definite eye contact with the driver and know if it's safe to use the crosswalk or proceed through a four-way stop.
That's why Minnesota has laws against it. Even drivers from other states that allow tinted windows have to comply with these rules:
• No vehicle can have ANY tint to the front windshield.
• Passenger cars are limited to 50 percent tint on all side and rear windows.
• Pickups, vans, and SUVs are limited to 50 percent on the front side windows.
• Pickups, vans, and SUVs are NOT limited on the rear side and rear windows.
(Tint can be less than 50 percent behind the front seat).
• Squad cars, limousines, and vehicles used to transport human remains by a funeral establishment are not limited on the side and rear windows.
• No person shall sell, offer for sale, or use any motor vehicle with windows or windshields that have window tint on them.
Why do drivers want to tint their windows in the first place? Some say they're protecting the interior of their car and themselves from harmful UV rays. Some want to conceal the items in their vehicle so they're not stolen. Some think it will keep their vehicle cooler temperature-wise and "looks cooler" too.
But the fact remains that it can be hazardous, not only to the driver but others on the road. If glare is a problem, drivers should try sunglasses, not illegal tints.
Dickenson provided some interesting background about tinting enforcement efforts. The State Patrol has two types of tint meters. The first type slides over the window to give the tint percentage. The second is a two piece meter, and is used for rear window or windows that will not roll down.
Dickenson's advice: If you need to have window tint removed, you can check with a body or detailing shop or you can do it yourself. Look on the internet for advice and suggestions. But be sure you are obeying the law.