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Ask a Trooper: School bus stops

March 7, 2014
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: A friend of mine was recently ticketed for dark tint on his car windows. His argument was that he didn't know there was a law in Iowa. What is the law and how do you know if your windows are too dark?

A: Window tint is a fairly common detailing option added to many vehicles. Unfortunately, many tint jobs are illegal in Iowa, even if you purchased the vehicle in another state that has a different standard. Here are some of the common questions and answers regarding Iowa's window tint code section.

n Why is there a restriction on the level of tint I can put on my windows?

Many believe that Iowa's tint law is designed to protect law enforcement officers as they walk up to a stopped car. When a police officer stops a car with dark tint on the windows, it limits the officer's ability to see into the car as he approaches. This issue does present an officer safety concern, but was not the express intent of the law. The main issue this law addresses is the drivers' ability to see out of the windows. If the vehicles windows are tinted allowing only 5% of the light through, how difficult will it be for the driver to see, especially in low light conditions? It would be comparable to wearing sunglasses at night. In addition, Iowa's law only addresses the windshield, and window on either side of the driver. It does not govern the back windows. If the law was for officer safety, it would include the back windows as well.

n What is the acceptable standard in Iowa?

Iowa code section 321.438 sets the legal standard for Iowa at 70% light transmittal. This means that 70% of the light must pass through the window for it to be legal. Officers use a tint meter that shoots a beam of light through the window to check this percentage.

n How can I tell if my windows are legal?

It is easy to tell if your vehicle has tint that is too dark. The rule of thumb I use is if you can see any tint on the driver or passenger window, it is too dark. Factory tint is set at 70%, and anything added to this is illegal in Iowa.

n I purchased my vehicle from out of state, can I be cited?

Each state has its own regulations regarding tint. A vehicle that is registered in South Dakota will be required to meet South Dakota's standards, even if it is just passing through Iowa. Likewise, a vehicle registered in Iowa will be required to meet Iowa's standards, even if it was purchased out of state. Make sure you ask if the window tint will meet Iowa standards before purchasing a vehicle from out of state.

A violation of this section carries a $127.50 fine.



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