On February 27th, LMB testified in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in opposition to HB 5634, legislation that would loosen restrictions on Michigan's existing window tinting law.
LMB believes that loosening restrictions on tinted windows could pose a serious danger to bicyclists as well as other non-motorized roadway users.
Nonverbal communication between bicyclists and motorists is a simple and often overlooked technique to promote roadway safety. Cyclists are taught to ride defensively and never assume a driver sees them. Bicyclists can help ensure their presence is known to a driver by connecting with them through eye contact, a courtesy wave, or a simple head nod. Front tinted windows create a serious safety hazard for cyclists and pedestrians as they eliminate this ability to communicate.
Motorists often use nonverbal communication in similar ways, whether it's acknowledging the right of way of a pedestrian at a crosswalk, or "waiving on" another driver and letting them know it is safe to merge into traffic.
As vulnerable roadway users, bicyclists must be alert at all times for drivers pulling out from cross streets or driveways. "Right hooks" and "left hooks" are common crash scenarios where a driver makes a turn immediately in front of a bicyclist, failing to yield to that cyclist through the intersection. Being able to clearly judge a drivers' alertness in these situations, and take evasive action if necessary, can help prevent these serious and crashes.
On roads with on-street parking, bicyclists are taught to look ahead to anticipate a sudden pull out of a vehicle. Likewise, looking ahead for drivers about to exit their vehicles, a cyclist can adjust their lane position to prevent getting "doored". Tinted windows can inhibit the ability to foresee such actions.
Tinted windows also hinder law enforcement by reducing the chances of observing texting, distracted driving, or other illegal behavior that put bicyclists and other roadway users at risk. At traffic stops, tinting increases the risk for an approaching officer who cannot see into the vehicle. Tinting can also inhibit the ability of witnesses to identify drivers involved in hit-and-run collisions, which disproportionally involve bicyclists and pedestrians.
With bicycle fatalities up an alarming 81 percent since 2016 and combined pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities exceeding 15 percent of the total annual crash fatalities in Michigan, we should be doing everything in our power to reduce these needless tragedies. Instead of loosening standards for tinted windows, LMB supports enhanced enforcement of existing laws, including efforts to crack down on violators, both individuals, and companies that illegally install these products.
As part of our testimony, LMB requested that the safety of all roadway users be considered as the Committee continues discussions on HB 5634. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee did not vote on the bill. We will post updates on the progress of this bill as information becomes available.