What you need to know:
While it is understood that some people wish to guard their privacy, public safety should take precedence. Drivers who cannot properly see out of the windscreen, or through the rear-view mirrors, are a danger to themselves, their passengers and every other road user.
The tinted windows subject is heavily loaded with social, technical and security issues, so let us be very about what we are talking about:
The phrase “tinted windows” can mean anything from light tinting (transparent glass that has a slight hint of colouring in it) to dark tinting (where the glass is dyed or laminated heavily enough that it is no longer readily see-through from the outside, and sometimes so dark that it is effective as opaque as black paint). Light tinting is not the problem. Dark tinting is, for a whole raft of reasons:
Those in favour of all-round dark tinting might argue that while heavy tints look opaque black to onlookers, for those inside the vehicle visibility is not much different from the driver or passengers wearing densely-coloured sunglasses. If there is bright sunlight outside, they have a point. But if external conditions are murky and dull (cloud, heavy rain, fog or that even darker stuff called “nighttime”) people wearing dark glasses can take them off.
Tinted windows are less adaptable and a heavy tint can seriously compromise visual clarity and acuity in areas of both central focus and peripheral vision, both of which are important to driver awareness and hence, safety.
Proponents of tints will also note that many vehicles (including trucks and panel vans) do not have any windows behind the driver, and others (such as camper vans) have curtains, so why should saloon cars and station wagons be full-length see-through?
That logic makes dark tints okay on back windows, so long as you think that setting your standard to the lowest common denominator is an acceptable value system. But that logic also translates to “I can drive more safely than the worst drivers, so I should not have a higher speed limit”.
Also, in no case do the windscreen and the front-door windows have metal panels or curtains on them in any type of public road vehicle. Absolutely clear forward and side vision from the driver’s seat is imperative.
Best practice driving protocol also requires drivers, in more than a few circumstances, to be able to glance back over their shoulder to validate or double-check their rear-view mirror observation. Dark tints on back-door windows or the rear screen obliterate that option. Clearly, (pun coincidental) any tints on windscreens and front door windows should always be fully transparent.
Also, whether purposively or sub-consciously, we all frequently read the body language of the driver of the car we are following as part of our observation and anticipation in traffic, just as we also read the body language of the vehicle itself as a clue to how it might behave and what it might do next.
This is the most emotive issue, where those against dark tints base their case. Hiding in a public place so you can see and recognise and “read” others, but they cannot see, recognise and “read” where you are looking or what you are doing, or perhaps not be able to see you at all - is at best discourteous and at worst, sinister. In these respects, dark-tinted windows are akin to full-face coverings or hoodies, which in some countries in some situations are forbidden by law.
The wearer might be a saint, but once such concealments are allowed they can be too easily used by villains. And that makes everybody uncomfortable. There must be room for different beliefs and tastes: to some people, a car with black-window car looks cool, to others it looks somewhere between inappropriate and downright threatening.
In a public place, the reaction is who are you? What are you doing? Why are you hiding? Legitimate conduct does not need to conceal itself. Freedom of expression and taste need to have limits and respectful balance. If it is okay to wear a hoodie in a supermarket, then why not a bikini?
The need to recognise and evaluate, and especially eye contact, are not matters of taste – they are fundamental and universal aspects of human nature. My personal take: Even wearing dark glasses while speaking to someone else face to face (though tolerable in some instances) denies those essentials and is therefore disrespectful.
Anything that allows concealment of your presence, or prevents basic evaluation of who you are and what you are doing, or even feels threatening to others represents a breach of everyone’s security in a public place. Readers can come to their own conclusion as to which, if any, of those conditions are compromised by dark-tinted car windows.
Tint and the law
In Uganda, there is no law prohibiting the use of tinted windows. Dr Steven Kasiima, the former police director of traffic, unsuccessfully tried to lobby Parliament to include a ban on car window tinting in the 2023 Traffic and Road Safety Act amendments. Kasima’s argument was that vehicles with tinted windows are used in criminal activities. Members of Parliament, however, argued that tinted windows protect them against criminals who might be trailing them.
It is too dark when…
It diminishes your vision or you are unable to make eye contact with other people on the road.
Researchers have found that your visual acuity and depth perception are affected when windows are tinted to around 65 percent. At that level, the impact is minimal for most people, but in less-than-ideal driving conditions it can make a difference.
Age matters too; another study found that while younger drivers could see sufficiently at night with 35 percent tint, older drivers experience a “significant drop” in their vision at that level.