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Massachusetts Driving and Traffic Laws

Most major traffic laws are consistent from state to state across the country. However, states have the sovereignty to devise and enforce regulations that are specific to their territory. This includes Massachusetts. If you are new to the state, it is a necessity that you familiarize yourself with the laws that govern how you drive in this state. Even if you are a long time resident of Massachusetts, it may behoove you to brush up on your knowledge of these laws. You will also be informed about the penalties you can incur if you violate any of these laws.

Cell phone usage while driving has been an issue of intense debate in recent years. Currently, Massachusetts does not have a state law that monitors the use of your cell phone while driving, except for school bus drivers. If a school bus driver is caught using a cell phone while transporting children, they will be subject to a hefty fine. Repeated violators risk the revocation of their license. Cities are allowed to enact their own legislation within their municipalities though. Brookline in Massachusetts, for example, has enforced a no hands policy regarding cell phone usage in a car. It would be wise to study your city's ordinances to discover what the particular rules are that apply to your area.

In Massachusetts, all motorists on public roads or highways are to obey and heed all signs, signals, and pavement markings that monitor how they drive. Speeding is a major concern of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. It remains one of the leading causes of vehicular collisions in the state. There are strict penalties for those who are caught violating the law. The faster a motorist drives, the more space he or she will require to react to a situation or to stop the car. Because this space may not always be available, this can lead to a collision. There are three main laws governing how fast a motorist is allowed to drive:

1. The ultimate law concerning speed that overrides all others is that a motorist must not travel faster than is reasonable for existing conditions and public safety. The factors you must take into account when making this determination are the traffic conditions, the road conditions, pedestrians or bicyclists, and weather conditions.

2. A motorist in Massachusetts is never, under any circumstances, allowed to drive faster than the posted speed limit. The majority of roadways will have speed limits posted in visible places. It is your responsibility to be aware of speed limit changes as you drive on different kinds of roads. There may also be a minimum speed limit posted which you must observe.

3. The exceptions to the above rule include:

  • If you were driving over 20 mph in a school zone.
  • If you are driving over 30 mph in a business district.
  • Or if you are driving 50 mph on a highway outside of a densely populated business or shopping district.

If you are to receive a citation for speeding in Massachusetts, the minimum amount you will be charged is $100, despite how fast you may have been traveling. If you are convicted of driving more than ten miles per hour over the speed limit, you will be charged an additional $10 per mile in fines. For example, if you are traveling 75 miles per hour on a highway with a posted speed limit of 60, you would incur a $250 fine. According to which municipality you are caught speeding in, a $60 surcharge may be added to your total fine.

Should you be charged with a criminal motor vehicle violation, you should be aware that you are being charged with a very serious offense. You can possibly be arrested immediately at the scene of the crime. You may have your car impounded, and your driver's license may be revoked. Criminal motor vehicle offenses often involve jail time for the guilty party. Examples of such offenses would be driving under the influence of alcohol or leaving the scene or an accident in which a party sustains an injury. If you are arrested, a police officer will ask you for your name, address, driver's license, and registration. If you present any incorrect information concerning these questions, you will be charged with falsifying information. This could lead to further penalties.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited in any state across the country. However, Massachusetts has enacted some of the strictest DUI legislations in the country. Driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of fourteen in the car is now its own offense. If you are found to have a blood alcohol content of over .15, you are required to undergo an alcohol assessment. If a person knowingly allows a friend who has a suspended license to drive intoxicated, he or she can be charged with a $500 fine. A second offense can include jail time for this person. If your license is suspended and you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you will spend a mandatory one year in jail. A repeat DUI offender will be forced to have an interlock device installed on their vehicle.

The procedures governing license suspension have become increasingly strict as well. A first time offender can have their license suspended for up to fifteen years. A second DUI offender will have their license suspended for life. A motorist who refuses to take a Breathalyzer test will have his or her license suspended for up to 180 days. Your car will also be impounded for 24 hours. If you are involved in an accident and refuse the Breathalyzer test, your license will be suspended for a minimum of ten years. Those who refuse a breathalyzer test and already possess a substantial history of traffic violation will have a lifetime license suspension enacted.

Massachusetts also maintains strict requirements for the amounts and forms of car insurance a motorist must carry when compared to other states. In Massachusetts, a motorist must maintain minimum Bodily Injury Liability limits of $20,000 per injured person up to a total of $40,000 per accident, as well as Property Damage Liability coverage with a minimum limit of $5,000. This basic coverage is often referred to as 20/40/5 coverage with 20/40 UM limits. In addition, a driver must also maintain personal injury protection insurance in the amount of $8,000. If you are involved in a collision in Massachusetts and do not have the proper insurance coverage, you can face potential arrest and jail time, depending on the severity of the accident. In addition, you will be financially liable for the medical expenses and property damage repair costs that other motorists in the accident may incur.

By having a thorough understanding of the specific traffic laws in Massachusetts, you will be better equipped to be a safer driver. It will also reduce your chances of being involved in a collision or receiving a citation for a traffic infraction. If you are well equipped with knowledge about Massachusetts traffic laws, you will have peace of mind as you travel its roadways.


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