New law loosens restrictions on window tinting

Adriana Colindres

Workers at window-tinting shops say they're gearing up for a surge in business because of a new state law that lets Illinois motorists drive a car with more tinted windows than ever.

"In the past few days, I have received probably close to two dozen calls on the (new) law," said Matt Fleming, owner of a Bellevue business called Window Tinting by Matt Fleming.

"It's good news," said Bill Glasscock, owner of A-1 Cool Tint in Springfield. "Any increase in business, with the economy the way it is, is definitely a plus."

The measure, which advanced through the legislature as House Bill 3325, allows for certain amounts of tinting on the front driver's side and front passenger's side windows. Previously, any tinting on those windows was prohibited, Illinois State Police Sgt. Brian Copple said.

But the new law also specifies that rear windows may not be as darkly tinted as they have been in the past, Copple said. Dark rear windows on vehicles present potential safety hazards to police officers, who typically approach a car from behind when they pull over a driver for speeding or some other infraction.

In short, Copple said, the new law allows "more tinting, but it is lighter tinting, which allows the police officer to see inside the vehicle better."

Existing state law bars vehicles from having tint on the front windshield, except for the top six inches, and that remains in effect.

Adding tint to car windows protects passengers from harmful ultraviolet rays, cuts down on glare and prevents upholstery from fading, according to window-tinting shop operators. They added that in the summer, a car with tinted windows gets less hot than other cars, so the air conditioner doesn't have to work as hard.

"It's a good environmental thing and it's jobs for folks who are involved with the industry," said Rep. Suzanne Bassi, a Palatine Republican who sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives.

She said the new law would preserve or create 700 jobs, benefiting 250 small businesses throughout Illinois.

"Consumers have been wanting this for years," said Steve Williams, owner-operator of Williams Enterprises in Quincy, a window-tinting business. He helped craft the legislation and pushed for its passage.

Bassi's proposal, House Bill 3325, became state law after lawmakers last week overrode an amendatory veto from Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn tried to rewrite the measure to clear up a glitch that affects sport-utility vehicles and similar means of transportation, preventing them from getting the same kind of tinting permitted on automobiles, Copple said.

"You could do it, but your neighbor couldn't," he said. "That's not very fair."

Lawmakers, however, opted to override Quinn's veto and let the measure become law in its original form. Bassi said she would pursue further legislation to make the changes that Quinn recommended.

Dave Harris, an installer at Wizard Window Tint in Peoria, isn't sure if police officers have been updated yet about the new law on window tinting. As a precaution, he said, he plans to give customers a copy of the new law so they can show it to police in case they get pulled over.

The cost of tinting windows on a car ranges from about $150 to $300, employees at window-tinting shops said. The work involves attaching a special film to the glass.

The state's new rules on window-tinting won't affect another part of the law that permits a darker shade of tinting on the autos used by people with medical conditions, including lupus, that make them extremely sensitive to sunlight.

Those people are eligible for specially designated license plates through Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's office. The plates, which end with the letters WT, are meant to alert police that the occupant of the car has a medical condition warranting the use of dark tinted windows.

White spokesman Henry Haupt said more than 900 of the license plates have been issued. Getting the plates requires filling out a form that has to be signed by a physician, he said.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 oradriana.colindres@sj-r.com.