Mirrored visors protect the eyes by reflecting sunlight that could otherwise cause strain and damage.
They are also beloved for their Daft Punk, spaceman aesthetic and an important piece of kit for the MX and Moto GP professionals.
The trouble is, they also reduce vision in low-light conditions.
Laws concerning tinted and mirrored visors confuse new riders because they aren’t particularly clear and are somewhat open to interpretation.
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The Letter Of The Law
Motorcycle helmet visors fall under a similar piece of legislation that covers car windows. Under these laws, the front windscreen of a car must let at least 75% of the light through. The law is amended for motorcyclists to 50%.
This is where things get cloudy, however. In the UK, tinted visors are OK during daylight but illegal in “poor visibility/nighttime” – somewhat open to interpretation.
Mirrored visors are, as a rule, illegal but road-legal Pinlock-style mirrored inserts are available for most major brands.
BS and ECE-rated mirrors also comply with UK law during daylight hours. Mirrored visors, despite their status as technically illegal (unless using a verified road-legal insert or BS/ECE-rated), are not commonly pursued by police for prosecution.
That Law’s Application
There are a few factors behind the different way the law is applied to cars and bikes, some practical, some cultural, and some simply legal grey areas.
For example, a tinted/mirrored visor is only illegal when being used. Therefore, having a mirrored visor fitted to your helmet in the raised position is perfectly legal but once lowered, you’re (technically) breaking the law (conspicuously so at night).
The police also seem far less likely to pursue motorcyclists for tint/mirror infractions than they do car drivers for the same issue. This may be due to some association between young drivers of cars with tinted windows and anti-social behaviour.
You’ll find few examples of police prosecuting riders for mirrored or tinted visors, and in the cases where they pursue a fine, it’s often something other than the visor which brings the initial police attention.
Rule number one for avoiding police issues – don’t be a wally. If they stop you for something silly after dark, they’re far more likely to notice your illegal visor than if you were simply rolling along under the speed limit with your lights on.
How They Check? Do They Need To Check?
Either the DVSA or police can use light-measuring equipment to ensure that the windscreen of a car complies with the 75% rule. This is a fairly regular occurrence.
Officers can use a device called a Tintman to check to see if your visor complies with the 50% law. However, we haven’t heard of any cases of this actually happening.
Again, we aren’t advising you on what choices to make but sharing our experiences and those of other UK riders. The discretion of the local police force and the individual officer is often the deciding factor.
The best bet is to find a Facebook group or forum in your area and join the discussion on how these things are policed.
So, Can We Use Them?
We’re not going to encourage you to break any law, even if we could guarantee a 99% chance that you won’t be prosecuted (which we can’t!).
Again, discussing the attitudes of police towards riders in general (and this issue, in particular) with other motorcyclists from your area could give you a better indication of your chances.
Daytime VS Nighttime
In bright, sunny conditions (where such visors are appropriate), police are less likely to take issue with your mirrored/tinted visor than at night time. Another huge factor here is how quickly you can comply with an inquiry from the police.
If you have a clear visor stashed in a pocket, apologise to the officer, curse your forgetful nature, and quickly install the appropriate, legal example – you’ll often roll away scot-free.
There is some online scare-mongering about this but the reality is there are no records of anyone invalidating their insurance by wearing the wrong visor. Your helmet needs to be British Standard or European Union Approved. If it’s secured on you head and satisfies one of those regulatory boards, you’re doing what you need to do helmet-wise to stay on the right side of the insurance company.
BS and ECE rated visors should be road legal (in daylight) no matter what level of tint/mirror is in effect. We hesitate to say this is a cast-iron guarantee, however. In case you hadn’t noticed – the law isn’t particularly clear on the subject.
Another safe bet is to purchase tinted/mirrored inserts for your existing visor from UK vendors who list the ratings of their products and can answer any queries you might have.
If you haven’t noticed by now, we’re being cautious about giving any direct advice on a law that is complex and open to interpretation. The risk can be mitigated by sticking to BS and ECE certified visors and inserts, carrying a backup, clear visor, and generally behaving like a conscientious road user.
Nonetheless, in certain situations, mirrored visors remain illegal. Check with people who’ve been riding for a long time where you live.