After the overwhelming response and numerous comments by our readers in relation to BayToday's article: Take off that licence plate cover or face a fine say OPP, we reached out to the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for clarification on fines for licence plate covers; the rules about tinted windows in motor vehicles; and what to do with those defective, peeling licence plates that were issued in the last few years.
LICENCE PLATE COVER LAW
Section 13 (2) of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) indicates that every number plate shall not be obstructed and must be plainly visible at all times.
Number plate to be kept clean
(2) Every number plate shall be kept free from dirt and obstruction and shall be affixed so that the entire number plate, including the numbers, is plainly visible at all times, and the view of the number plate shall not be obscured or obstructed by spare tires, bumper bars, any part of the vehicle, any attachments to the vehicle or the load carried.
According to Bob Nichols, Senior Media Liaison Officer for the MTO, "so long as the entire plate is visible at all times, to any person or device, the option to use a clear covered plate shall be left up to the individual.
"The sale of licence plate covers is not illegal. The ministry is aware that many retailers sell these items, however, the ministry does not endorse or promote the sale, purchase, or use of clear or tinted licence plate covers.
"The use of these products may place individuals in contravention of the Highway Traffic Act. Section 13 of the HTA prohibits the obstruction of licence plates by "any attachments" to the vehicle or any device that would prevent the plates from being read by a law enforcement officer, electronic toll system, photo radar, or red light camera."
Nichols points out that the laws are open to interpretation and the discretion of law enforcement when it comes to the HTA. When a licence plate cover "obstructs the licence plate by reflecting headlights, or where a licence plate or plate cover is dirty, damaged, or discoloured and the licence plate is not clearly visible," the operator is subject to a fine of $85 (plus court costs and victim fine surcharges) under section 13 of the HTA.
There are two different standards that outline tinting requirements for passenger and light duty vehicles in Ontario:
- The Highway Traffic Act requirements for on-road enforcement and;
- The compliance requirements of the Passenger/Light Duty Inspection Standard for a safety standards certificate inspection when a used vehicle is sold.
Generally speaking, the HTA requires compliance for all road users while operating on a highway. The HTA sub-section 73(3) states:
Colour coating obscuring interior
(3) No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle on which the surface of the windshield or of any window to the direct left or right of the driver’s seat has been coated with any coloured spray or other coloured or reflective material that substantially obscures the interior of the motor vehicle when viewed from outside the motor vehicle.
So, there is a discretionary law enforcement component at play with window tinting, the same as licence plate covers. The HTA is used roadside by law enforcement, and all vehicles must be in compliance with the HTA.
Nichols added: "The new criteria for window tinting on passenger and light duty vehicles found in the Standard, which became effective on July 1, 2016, is used by a licensed Motor Vehicle Inspection Station technician solely for the purpose of conducting a safety standards certificate inspection when a used vehicle is sold. Compliance with the Passenger/Light Duty Vehicle Inspection Standard does not affect nor confirm compliance with section 73(3) of the HTA.
"The new requirements include window tint inspection criteria. These criteria apply to vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, only. For these vehicles, aftermarket window tint that is on the side window of a passenger vehicle being inspected must allow for 70% light transmittance, to be in compliance. No aftermarket tint is permitted on the windshield.
"If a vehicle is manufactured before January 1, 2017, it is not subject to the 70% transmittance standard. There is no window tint criteria or requirement to determine compliance for the issuance of a safety standard certificate. The Standard is not an on-road enforcement tool like the HTA, and the criteria are not intended to be used roadside."
PEELING LICENCE PLATES
Victoria Stacey, Strategic Issues and Media Advisor with the Ministry of Government & Consumer Services (which oversees ServiceOntario) advised that "Ontario licence plates are guaranteed by the manufacturer for up to five years under normal wear and tear, but usually last longer before requiring replacement.
"Customers who have a problem with their plates should bring them to a ServiceOntario centre in order to obtain replacements."