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By Bill Hoagland
About two weeks ago, I was driving my truck southbound on Stanka Lane, in Godfrey in the middle of the day. It was hot so I had the windows down. When I was a hundred yards from the stop sign at the intersection of Stanka and the Great River Road, I encountered a sedan parked in the middle of the north-bound lane of Stanka. This car was in the north-bound lane but for some reason, it too was pointed south—in the same direction I was headed. As I got closer, I noticed that this car had a temporary Missouri registration tag on the rear license plate. I pulled next to this car and came to a stop, thinking that there might be some kind of problem. The car appeared to be running, but all of the windows were completely closed up and the passenger side windows and rear window were so heavily tinted that I could not see inside the car at all.
As I sat there, briefly staring at the darkened interior, it occurred to me that on the other side of that glass, there could be four people sitting there, pointing guns at me. With those heavily tinted windows, I had no clue. Something was not right. But I did not stick around to find out more. Time to move on, right?
Which brings me to this: why do we allow cars to be so heavily tinted that you can’t see who is in those cars? Believe it or not, there was a time when no cars had window tinting and we somehow survived.
Sure, I understand that there are a few people who, for medical reasons, need tinted windows in their cars. And I understand that a number of people simply want the freedom to do what the heck they want to do with their cars. And maybe there are people who want their cars to appear as if they have Hollywood stars in the back seat when really it is just two kids and a dog. But this is 2021, not 1990. Today, we have rolling gun battles on the interstates. Today, we have cars pulling up to funerals, rolling down the tinted windows and firing off a few rounds, all in the middle of the day. Today, any car could be an arsenal on wheels. I could go on, but you get the idea.
So what is the law on window tinting? It is a bit confusing because it is expressed in terms of how much visible light needs to be seen from outside; the lower the designated percentage, the darker the allowable tint.
In both Illinois and Missouri, the front windshield on all vehicles is not supposed to have any tinting (other than a strip across the top) but from just a casual observation, there appear to be vehicles in both states with tinted front windows. In Illinois, sedans can have 35% tinting on all side and rear windows; vans and SUVs are restricted to 50% tinting on the front side windows yet there are no restrictions on how dark it can be on the rear side windows and back window. In Missouri, as to all vehicles, the front side windows can have 35% tinting but there are no restrictions on how dark the tinting can be on the rear side windows and the back window. In other words, Missouri permits vehicles to be pretty darn dark but frankly, there seems to be plenty of vehicles in both states in which you can’t see anyone in the front or back.
Maybe this window tinting issue does not mean much to you–at least not until that day when there is a vehicle with temporary tags stopped for a lengthy period of time in front of your house, motor running, headed in the wrong direction with heavily tinted windows all around and you have no idea who is inside that car, and, oh yes, your kids are playing on the front lawn. Or maybe you are on the interstate and two heavily tinted cars are weaving in and out of traffic next to you, as if there is some kind of confrontation about to start. Or maybe you are a police officer walking up to a heavily tinted car, wondering what will happen when you knock on the window.
Maybe it is time that we “lighten up.”
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.