Minneapolis regulates auto window tinting
by Jackie Norris
When Ellen Berner moved to Minneapolis from Texas, she brought her pre-owned Mercedes with her. She drove for three years without incident until May 2008, when she was pulled over in St. Paul and given a $120 ticket.
"The officer who pulled me over did so simply because he believed my windows were too dark and tested them with a light transmittance reader," Berner says. "He told me dark windows were his pet peeve and he stopped giving warnings because he never saw anybody change their tint after receiving one."
To avoid receiving another ticket, Berner took her car to highly rated Gjerde's Solar Shield Inc. in Savage to have her tinting reapplied for $300. She says Gjerde's explained the laws to her and advised her to go even lighter than the legal limit.
"Of course I wish I would've known about this law before I got a ticket," Berner says. "I wasn't aware of any such law in Texas. Ultimately, it's my responsibility, but who reads a driver's manual at the age of 40 when moving from another state?"
In 2008, 3,158 people were cited in Hennepin County for operating a vehicle with illegal tinting. Minnesota law says for tint to be legal for driving, 50 percent of light needs to transmit through the side or rear window. It's also illegal to drive with any level of tint on the windshield.
Traffic officers carry meters that measure the light transmission. "It's always the officer's discretion if a citation will be issued," says Lt. Scott Olson of the Minneapolis Police Department. "Heavy tint is considered an officer safety issue. If the officer can't see into the car, their ability to react is delayed and could cost them their lives."
Nearly 90 percent of Twin Cities members polled say they wouldn't knowingly drive a car with illegal tint and 31.5 percent believe law enforcement should crack down on those who do.
Gjerde's owner, Mark Gjerde, takes a different position. "There's no data available that backs up an officer's claim that it makes their job more dangerous," he says. "A bad guy with a gun will shoot an officer whether his windows are tinted or clear."
Gjerde says it's legal for him to put illegal tinting on a car, but that he requires owners to sign a waiver stating they know it's illegal to drive the car with that level of tint.
"A large portion of my customers are young parents who want to protect their children," Gjerde says. "If that parent gets rear-ended - the tinting keeps the glass from shattering. It also protects their baby from the glaring sun. Fifty percent film isn't enough to give that baby good protection."