ABU DHABI // A decision to increase the legal level of tinting on car windows to 50 from 30 per cent will allow drivers to break the law without being seen, road safety experts say.
A heavy tint means police will not be able to see if drivers are wearing a seat belt, using their phone or if children are strapped in safely.
Robert Hodges, a driver education expert, said while he was happy with the new law requiring back-seat passengers to buckle up and making child seats mandatory, he was dismayed with the decision on tinting.
“Heavy tints allow drivers to effectively to break the law easily,” Mr Hodges said. “Tints will allow a certain type of person to simply continue using his or her mobile phone with impunity.
“There will be drivers and passengers who will deliberately increase the level of tinting to disobey laws.”
Many people tint their car windows to cut sun and headlight glare, and keep their vehicle cool.
“I had the windows tinted to 50 per cent to keep my car cool,” said Mohammed Baker, 26, a Palestinian accountant. “I don’t think it’s going to be a safety or enforcement issue if the law allows tints of up to 50 per cent.”
But Mr Hodges said the darkness of tint had little to do with keeping a car cool.
“Quality tints such as 3M and V Cool that are completely clear have 100 per cent heat rejection,” he said. “They are designed to work without any darkness.”
Many motorists use tints to allow them and their families privacy, but Mr Hodges, former chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai, said drivers must be able to see and be seen.
“If ladies require high levels of privacy and modesty, then they should not be drivers or front-seat passengers,” he said. “They should sit in the back of the car and be driven by another person.”
An employee at a car accessories and upholstery shop in Al Nahyan Camp said they normally handled about 10 cars a day, but expected the number to double by June. The shop sold tints ranging from 30 to 60 per cent.
Emiratis and other Arabs prefer to have tints of up 60 per cent, while Asians stick to the permitted level of up to 30 per cent, he said.
Car accessory and tinting shops flouting the law should be prosecuted strongly with fines, imprisonment or forced closure of the business, Mr Hodges said.
Glenn Havinoviski, a US transport expert, suggested shop inspections and licensing, along with vehicle inspection rules for car owners.
“It will take a while for vehicles that have heavier tint to be retrofitted with higher numerical or lesser tint,” Mr Havinoviski said.
“As such, it may be appropriate to allow a 30-day period for vehicles to be retrofitted before charging the full fine. During that period a warning could be issued to the driver if they are in violation.”
The penalty for exceeding the permitted tint level is now Dh1,500, up from the Dh500 fine.
Amer Amer, a food sales manager in Abu Dhabi, said a 50 per cent tint was acceptable but car owners should not be able to tint their front windshields.
“We often see heavily tinted car windows including the windshield, but drivers are unable to see the road clearly at night, which is very dangerous,” Mr Amer said.
Michael Dreznes, executive vice president of the International Road Federation, said motorists should not hide their bad habits and wait for police to penalise them.
“The sad part of this seat belt argument is not that police catch you and give you a penalty for not wearing a seat belt or making children in the back wear a seat belt, the penalty you will pay if involved in a crash and someone in your vehicle is injured or killed because they did not have a seat belt is far more devastating,” he said.