Drivers 'scrambling' to comply with tint law

By Ed Brock

Business is hopping at Rob Lambright's Klassy Window Tinting in Riverdale since the Georgia window tinting law is back in effect.

The law that requires a certain level of visibility in tinted windows had been struck down as unconstitutional last year.

"All through the eight or 10 months it was invalidated I was trying to get my customers to go legal, saying that the law would come back," Lambright said. "Nobody believed me. Now everybody's scrambling."

On Wednesday the Georgia State Patrol began enforcing the state's window-tinting law, one month after Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill reinstating it.

The state patrol issued warnings throughout May, allowing people with darkened windows to make adjustments. The window-tinting law was struck down because the provisions applied only to vehicles registered in Georgia. Now the law, which became effective May 2, applies to most vehicles, whether they have been registered in Georgia or another state.

Violating the law carries a maximum penalty of up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

"Right now if you have illegal tint you're dodging cops," Lambright said.

Georgia State Trooper First Class Larry Schnall said vehicle windows should have at least 32 percent visibility, and that officers can measure how dark windows are tinted by using a tint meter, an electronic device the size of a small tape recorder. The tint meter is placed over windows and gives a digital reading that displays the visibility, Schnall explained.

"When we check visibility, it should read 32 or better," he said, pointing out that it is also illegal for materials to be applied to the windows that increase the level of light reflected to more than 20 percent.

Some local law enforcement agencies also will be able to issue citations if tinted windows test too dark.

On May 28 the Forest Park Police Department conducted two community educational programs on the new window tint law, according to Forest Park Police Capt. Chris Matson.

"With the assistance of the management of Wholesale Warehouse Foods and Kim Long Plaza we were able to test window tint on vehicles and pass out informational brochures," Matson said in a statement.

The brochures covered information not only on window tint but included operation Click it or Ticket, Operation Zero Tolerance, the new blue light law, seat belt laws, and the new move over law that requires motorists to move over a lane from vehicles on the roadside with emergency lights operating.

Matson said that the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety supplied most of the brochures and M.A.T.E.N. (Metro Atlanta Traffic Enforcement Network) supplied the window tint meters . Officers issued 19 warnings for illegal window tint.

The window-tinting law was created with officers' safety in mind, to allow them to clearly see inside vehicles they approach, Schnall said. He added that extremely dark windows obscure drivers' visibility and could cause them to wreck.

Schnall said those installing tinted windows are subject to the same penalties as those who ride around with windows that are too dark.

Exemptions under the law include rear windshields and side windows, except the windows to the left and right of the driver, on multipurpose passengers vehicles. Also exempt are school buses and buses used for public transportation, buses and vans owned or leased by any religious or non-profit organization, limousines, and any other vehicle where the windows or windshields have been tinted or darkened before factory delivery or those permitted by federal law or regulation. People with health concerns can also receive an exemption by presenting documentation to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.

Staff writer Aisha I. Jefferson contributed to this article.