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When driving in another province, you must follow their rules (Thinkstock)
When driving in another province, you must follow their rules (Thinkstock)

Driving Concerns

Tinted car windows: What's allowed, what's illegal Add to ...

I'm an Ontario resident with Ontario plates and I own a lake house in Quebec. I was pulled over recently because my front driver and passenger windows were tinted too darkly to pass a test under a new law in Quebec. The windows were issued with the car when I purchased it. I wrote to the mayor of the municipality who contacted the local police department. Apparently, my plates don't matter, and I had to pay $150 fine. How can one province fine an out-of-province vehicle for this kind of infraction? — Michael

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When in Quebec, do as the Quebeckers do – or face a fine.

"When you're in Quebec or another province you have to respect the law," says Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Melanie Dumaresq. "You can be ticketed for breaking any law here, even if you're from another province or another country."

In Quebec, the front side windows have to let in at least 70 per cent of light.

"Your window can be tinted but not too dark," Dumaresq says. "If it's so dark we can't tell if it's a man or a woman or if his seatbelt is on or if he's talking on the phone, we give a notice."

So, if police can't see you through your windows and they don't have a photometer handy, they'll give you a notice to get your tinted windows inspected within 48 hours or two business days, Dumaresq says.

If they're too dark, you'll be ordered to take it off.

You could drive away from the shop and keep the tint, but your dark victory will probably be temporary. Get pulled over again in Quebec and there will be no notice – just a fine of up to $300, including surcharges and fees, Dumaresq says.

Ottawa regulates window tinting for new vehicles. Each province regulates after market modifications, including tinting.

If you have a vehicle that's been modified and you're planning a road trip, Dumaresq suggests checking out local laws to see what they allow.

Tinted love in Ontario?

If your windows are too dark for Quebec, chances are they're too dark for Ontario.

"Window tinting is addressed in sections 73 and 74 of the (Highway Traffic Act) whereby the surface of the windshield or any side window to the left or right of the driver cannot be coated with any colour spray or other colour coating in such a manner as to obstruct the driver's view of the roadway, or obscure the view from outside to the interior of the motor vehicle," says Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bob Nichols in an email.

Translation: you have to be able to see outside, and other people, especially police, have to be able to see you.

Ontario's law doesn't specify a percentage of tint - it's up to police to decide whether your windows are too dark.

If they decide they can't see you, you could be fined anywhere from $85, plus surcharges and fees, to $500.

Where they can't take a tint

In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, it's illegal to have any tint at all on driver and passenger side windows.

"A lot of people are surprised to find that out," says Calgary Police traffic section Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey. "Shops here aren't supposed to do the front side windows but some still do."

While laws vary, generally there are no restrictions on tinting rear windows.

"The back window can be completely blacked out and it's okay." Stacey says.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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