While you may be familiar with the driving laws in your own state and those that are based on common sense, that does not mean the rules will be the same in other states. If you are planning to visit or move to Massachusetts, you need to be aware of the driving laws that may be different from those which you are accustomed to following. The following rules of the road for Massachusetts drivers will help you understand that laws that may be different from those in your home state.
Massachusetts provides two different passenger vehicle licenses for those who meet the requirements for a learner’s permit and move on to an actual driver’s license.
Junior Operator License (JOL)
Any driver under the age of 18 and who has held a learner’s permit for a minimum of 6 months can apply for a JOL.
The JOL requires drivers to have a licensed driver that is 21 or older in the seat beside them when driving.
Drivers with a JOL can’t have anyone under 18 years old as a passenger in the vehicle unless he or she is an immediate family member for the first 6 months after the license is issued.
JOL holders are not permitted to drive between 12:30 AM and 5 AM without a parent or guardian in the vehicle.
If the junior operator receives a speeding violation, the license will be suspended for 90 days on the first offense. Additional offenses will result in a suspension of one year for each.
Mufflers are required and must be in good working condition on all vehicles.
All vehicles must have an engine ignition lock.
License plate lights with white bulbs are required.
Seat belts and safety seats
All drivers and passengers in vehicles weighing less than 18,000 pounds are required to wear a seat belt.
Children under aged 8 and less than 57 inches in height must be in a safety seat that is designed and federally approved for their height and weight.
Cell phones and electronics
Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone or any other electronic device.
It is illegal for all drivers to read, write or send text messages or emails, or to access the Internet while driving.
Drivers older than 18 are permitted to make and receive phone calls providing one hand is kept on the steering wheel at all times.
If a driver causes an accident that causes property damage or injury due to using a cell phone or electronic device, this is called negligent operation and will result in loss of license, and criminal charges.
Headlights must be used whenever visibility decreases to 500 feet in front of a vehicle.
Headlights are required during periods of fog, rain, and snow, and when driving through dust or smoke.
All drivers must use headlights when inside a tunnel.
Headlights must be on if the windshield wipers are in use due to weather conditions.
Marijuana - While the laws in Massachusetts allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and the use of medical marijuana, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of the drug.
Headphones - It is illegal to wear headphones while driving. However, those over the age of 18 are permitted to wear a headphone or headset in one ear only.
Truck beds - Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.
Televisions - Televisions in vehicles must be positioned so that the driver is unable to see them when looking ahead or when turning the head to look to either side of the vehicle.
Following - Massachusetts requires drivers to use the two-second rule when following another vehicle. If the road or weather conditions are not ideal, the amount of space must increase to ensure enough room to stop or avoid an accident.
Minimum speeds - Drivers are required to follow posted minimum speed limit signs when there are no hazardous road conditions. It is also illegal to hold up traffic by driving too slowly even if there are no minimum speed signs posted.
Right of way - Pedestrians always have right of way if failing to yield to them could result in an accident.
Signaling - All drivers are required to use signals when turning, stopping or changing lanes. If the turn signals are not functioning on a vehicle, hand signals must be used.
Understanding and following these rules of the road in Massachusetts, along with those that are the same in each state, will make sure you are within the laws while driving. Please reference the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual for more information.