Aren't darkened windows on a vehicle a violation? | Ask the DMV

Q: What's the deal with cars that have darkened windows? Aren't these windows a violation? If the darkened windows are illegal, why are there so many around?

Rhode Island law allows a medical exemption for lowering the light transparency below 70% in vehicle windows.
Rhode Island law allows a medical exemption for lowering the light transparency below 70% in vehicle windows.

— Camille D.

A: RI General Law 31-23.3.5 of the Rhode Island Criminal and Traffic Manual outlines the laws covering nontransparent windshield and windows (i.e. tint). Many new vehicles leaving the factory already have a light transparency (light allowed through the tint) of 70%, meaning the windows are already tinted 30% on the side and back windows.

Most people are unaware of this, as the tinting is so light and difficult to notice. Any tint lowering the light transparency below 70% must fall under one of the exceptions located in Rhode Island General Law 31-23.3-4, which includes a medical exemption.

Medical exemption forms are located on the DMV website at dmv.ri.gov, and are to be completed by a physician or optometrist and returned to the DMV for approval.

The DMV will approve 35% light transparency (65% tint) for skin-related medical issues, and 50% light transmittance (50% tint) for medical issues such as vision light sensitivity. Please remember that windshield tint is not allowed under any circumstances other than the strip at the top of the front windshield.

The RI DMV processes dozens of these applications a month that are based on medical necessity outlined by the driver’s doctor or optometrist. During inspection, there should be a corresponding certificate issued by the DMV authorizing the level of tint. The level of tint should correspond with the certificate and is checked during inspection in most cases. If there is no certificate, and the windows have tint beyond the factory installation, the vehicle should not pass inspection.

As far as enforcement, many police departments indeed check these certificates and the corresponding level of tint. Violations can result in a summons to court and/or a five-day tag where the vehicle would need inspection at the RI DMV Safety and Emissions Office.

Q: We are applying for a disabled placard to use when transporting my 92-year-old mom (soon to be 93!) to doctor appointments, etc. She uses a walker, and her mobility is very limited. She no longer drives and has let her license expire. The form requires a license number. Will an expired license be accepted? I do understand her physician must also complete the form.

— Eileen P.

A: The disability placard application does require that the individual have a current and active Rhode Island driver’s license or state identification card.

Have you considered changing your mom’s driver’s license into a state identification card? To do this, please fill out the LI-1 form, which can be found on our website (dmv.ri.gov) in the “Forms”  and “License Forms” tabs. Section F of this application, “Voluntary Termination of a License Affidavit,” needs to be understood and then filled out. This section states that in order to get a driver’s license again there is a waiting period of six months and will require retaking the permit and road exams. Since your mom is over the age of 59, state identification cards are free.

My experience has shown that this is an easy solution to having current identification for an individual who no longer drives but needs identification for medical purposes or banking.

Chuck Hollis
Chuck Hollis

Chuck Hollis is assistant administrator of the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. Please email your questions to cars@providencejournal.com with “Ask the DMV” in the subject field.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Aren't darkened windows on a vehicle a violation? | Ask the RI DMV