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Massachusetts Traffic Laws

Massachusetts is one of the smaller states, but its roads are among the busiest. Areas like Boston and Springfield often challenge drivers. Dense vehicular traffic and complex conditions can make your trip chaotic.

Stay ready for the road by knowing and obeying all state traffic laws. Read about the rules for driving in Massachusetts to lower your chance of tickets and crashes.

Statewide Rules of the Road

The driving and vehicle rules appear in Title XIV of the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL). You can read select statutes in the chart below.

Cell Phone Use Composing, sending or reading of electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle prohibited (90 MGL section 13B)
Crosswalks Marked crosswalks; yielding right of way to pedestrians (89 MGL section 11)
Drinking & Driving Violations Driving while under influence (90 MGL section 24)
Driving Without a License / With a Suspended License Operation of motor vehicle without license (90 MGL section 10)
Driving Without Insurance / With Insufficient Insurance Operating motor vehicle without liability policy, bond or security deposit (90 MGL section 34J)
Driving Without Registration / With Expired Registration Operation of unregistered or improperly equipped motor vehicles (90 MGL section 9)
Emergency Vehicles / Move Over Law Restrictions on use of ways upon approach of emergency vehicles (89 MGL section 7A)Lane change upon approaching a stationary emergency response vehicle (89 MGL section 7C)
Illegal U-Turn and Running a Red Light / Stop Sign Traffic control signs and devices (89 MGL section 9)
Leaving the Scene of an Accident / Hit & Run Accident reports (90 MGL section 26)
Mechanical Violations Operation of unregistered or improperly equipped motor vehicles (90 MGL section 9)
Overtaking Other Vehicles Passing vehicle traveling in same direction (89 MGL section 2)
Reckless Driving Law of the road (MGL chapter 89)
Right of Way Right-of-way at intersecting ways; turning on red signals (89 MGL section 8)
Seat Belt / Child Restraint Violations Seat belt use required (90 MGL section 13A) Child passenger restraints (90 MGL section 7AA)
Speeding Speed limits (90 MGL section 17) Speed limit: Massachusetts Turnpike (90 MGL section 17A)
Unlawful Vehicle Modifications Operation of unregistered or improperly equipped motor vehicles (90 MGL section 9)

Local Driving Rules

Many Massachusetts cities set additional road rules, usually for topics like:

  • Traffic signals and signs
  • Parking restrictions and enforcement
  • Pedestrian crossings and public safety
  • Speed limits on individual roads
  • The location of bus stops
  • One-way streets

Be aware of local bylaws as you drive from city to city. Traffic signs often mark some of these special rules, such as no-parking zones. If you plan to spend a lot of time driving in a particular city, learning about its unique regulations is a good idea.

Traffic Violations in Massachusetts

If a police officer pulls you over, they might simply let you go with a warning. But often, drivers face traffic tickets or an arrest for the violation that caused the officer to stop them.

The penalties for infractions and motor vehicle offenses in Massachusetts vary. Your driving record and the conditions around you can affect how steep the fines and jail time may be. Your auto insurance coverage might cost more after a violation, particularly under the state's Safe Driver Insurance Plan.

Example: Traffic Ticket Penalties for Speeding

Several details calculate the cost of a speeding ticket, including:

  • The minimum base fine of at least $50
  • How many miles you drove above the speed limit ($10 for each mile after 10 miles above the limit)
  • Whether you sped in a construction zone, which doubles the fine
  • Other court costs and fund charges, such as the $50 state surcharge

After counting these factors, the penalty for speeding could be hundreds of dollars. For example, if you drive 50 mph on a 35 mph road, your fine may be at least $150.

Driver's License Suspension

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) may suspend or revoke your driver's license if you:

  • Get three speeding tickets within one year
  • Get three tickets for lack of vehicle window transparency
  • Are convicted of operating under the influence (OUI)
  • Refuse to take a breath or chemical test at a traffic stop
  • Commit a hit-and-run accident that causes personal injury or property damage
  • Fail to take a mandatory driver's education course after three surchargeable events within two years, which include at-fault car accidents and traffic violations
  • Have seven surchargeable events within three years
  • Commit three serious traffic violations, such as driving with a suspended license, within five years
  • Commit 12 moving violations, regardless of whether they are serious or minor, within five years
  • Otherwise qualify for license suspension for non-driving reasons, such as unpaid child support or drug trafficking

The state's Merit Rating Board tracks your driving record and may share it with insurance companies and traffic courts. It also counts motorists' traffic violations outside of Massachusetts.

Appeal a Ticket with Legal Help

License suspension, fines, and jail time can have a domino effect on your life. Legal advice can help you find possible defenses and clarify state laws within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Contact a Massachusetts traffic law attorney to learn about your options today.

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