Massachusetts New Resident Guide

Welcome to Massachusetts! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in Massachusetts. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements

  • If you hold a Massachusetts learner's permit or driver's license or ID, the law requires you to notify the RMV in writing of any address change within 30 days of the change
  • If you change your name, you must report the change promptly to the RMV so that all your license and vehicle records can be updated.
  • Once you have established residence in Massachusetts, you must obtain a Massachusetts driver's license to retain your driving privileges. There is no grace period.
  • You must register your vehicle in Massachusetts as soon as you become a Massachusetts resident. The law does not provide a grace period.

Graduated Licensing Program

Learner's Permit


  • Must be age 16
  • Must pass vision test
  • Must pass written knowledge test

Privileges and Restrictions

  • You must always be accompanied by a licensed operator who occupies the passenger seat next to you. This person must be at least 21 years old and have a valid license with at least 1 year's driving experience
  • If you are under 18, you may not drive between the hours of 12:00 am and 5:00 am unless accompanied by a licensed parent or legal guardian.

Junior Operator / Intermediate License


  • Must have held permit for 6 months
  • Must have completed an approved driver's education course
  • Must have completed 40 or more (30 if an approved drivers education program is completed) hours of behind-the wheel experience driving supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older
  • Must have clean driving record for minimum of 6 months

Privileges and Restrictions

  • Prohibited from driving unsupervised between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
  • For the first 6 months of the junior operator's/intermediate license phase, teens may not transport any passengers (other than family members) under the age of 18 unless supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older.
  • A junior operator's/intermediate license holder who violates the passenger restriction shall be subject to a license suspension of up to 60 days. The 6-month passenger restriction period will stop running when the suspension begins and the remainder of the restriction period will start running again when the suspension is completed.
  • Junior operators/intermediate license holders face a license suspension for a 2nd or subsequent offense for speeding or drag racing violations.

Unrestricted License


  • Must be at least 18
  • Must have held intermediate license for at least 12 months

Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.

Safe Driver Insurance Program

Massachusetts' point system, called the Safe Driver Insurance Program, allows the state to collect and exchange private passenger motor vehicle insurance claim and traffic law violation data. The point system lowers premiums for drivers with clean driving records, and increases premiums for drivers with traffic violations and at-fault accidents.

Point Values

Value of Surcharge Points Assigned to Surchargeable Incidents:

Minor Traffic Law Violation2 points
Minor At-Fault Accident3 points
Major At-Fault Accident4 points
Major Traffic Law Violation5 points

Experience Period

The experience period of a policy is the 6-year period that immediately precedes the policy's effective date. Surcharge points are applied to only surchargeable incidents that fall within the policy experience period. No surcharge points are assigned to any surchargeable incident in the sixth (oldest) year of the policy experience period.

Insurance Requirements

In order to register and drive your vehicle in Massachusetts, you are required to at least purchase these auto coverages and limits:

  • Bodily Injury to Others
    • $20,000 per person;
    • $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
    • $8,000 per person, per accident
  • Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto
    • $20,000 per person;
    • $40,000 per accident
  • Damage to Someone Else's Property
    • $5,000 per accident

Headlight Laws

You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 200 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • From one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise
  • In rain, snow, fog, or other weather that makes it hard to see
  • Anytime you have trouble seeing other vehicles
  • To alert another driver to turn on his/her headlights
  • While driving through a tunnel
  • Whenever you use your windshield wipers

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing.

Implied Consent Laws

  • Suspension - 180 days
  • Second refusal or refusal by someone under the age of 21 - suspension 3 years
  • Third refusal - suspension5 years; Fourth refusal - lifetime suspension
  • Refusal with a prior conviction of DUI-serious bodily injury - suspension 10 years
  • Refusal with a prior conviction of DUI-homicide - lifetime suspension
  • Impoundment: The officer shall impound the vehicle driven by the operator for 12 hours after the operator's refusal.

DUI Penalties

First offense

  • Up to 2 1/2 years imprisonment
  • $500 - $5,000 fine
  • 1 year license suspension

Second offense

  • 60 days - 2 1/2 years imprisonment
  • $600 - $10,000 fine
  • 2 year license suspension
  • Ignition interlock required for 2 years after license reinstatement

Third offense

  • 180 days - 2 1/2 years imprisonment (OR 2 1/2 years - 5 years in State prison)
  • $1,000 - $15,000 fine
  • 8 year license suspension
  • Ignition interlock required for 2 years after license reinstatement

Fourth offense

  • 2 years - 2 1/2 years imprisonment (OR 2 1/2 years - 5 years in State prison)
  • $1,500 - $25,000 fine
  • 10 year license suspension
  • Ignition interlock required for 2 years after license reinstatement

Fifth or subsequent offense

  • 2 1/2 years imprisonment (OR 2 1/2 years - 5 years in State prison)
  • $2,000 - $50,000 fine
  • Permanent license suspension
  • Ignition interlock required for 2 years after license reinstatement

Child endangerment (child age 14 or younger in vehicle)

First offense

  • Additional 90 days - 2 1/2 years imprisonment
  • Additional $1,000 - $5,000 fine
  • Additional 1 year license suspension

Subsequent offense

  • Additional 6 months - 2 1/2 years imprisonment (OR 3 years - 5 years in State prison)
  • Additional $5,000 - $10,000 fine
  • Additional 3 years license suspension

Community service

  • Minimum of 30 hours as condition of probation

Alcohol education and treatment

  • Education mandatory as part of probation
  • Treatment if referred

Open Container Law

The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.

Red Light Violation Fines

Massachusetts does not have a state law governing red light fines or the use of traffic cameras for red light enforcement.

Construction Zone Penalties

Speeding violations are subject to two times the original fine, whether or not workers are present.

Turn Signal Information

You must signal your intention to turn or change lanes in advance of your maneuver.

Hazard Light Information

Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard.

Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws

  • All vehicles being operated in a funeral procession must have its headlights and taillights illuminated. The turn signals must be flashing simultaneously as warning lights on the first and last vehicles in the procession.
  • A vehicle in a funeral procession may follow the preceding vehicle in the funeral procession as closely as is practicable and safe.
  • Whenever the escort vehicle lawfully enters an intersection, either by reason of a traffic control device or at the direction of law enforcement personnel, the remaining vehicles in the funeral procession may continue to follow the funeral lead vehicle through the intersection despite any traffic control device, if the operator of each vehicle exercises reasonable care toward other vehicles and any pedestrians on the roadway.
  • An operator of a vehicle that is not part of a funeral procession may not drive between, join, or pass the vehicles forming a funeral procession.

School Bus Laws


  • Vehicles are required to stop unless approaching a bus from the opposite direction on a divided highway.


  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a $250 fine and a possible license suspension.

Bicyclist Passing Distance

You are required to pass at a safe distance.

Motorcycle Laws


  • Class M: A motorcycle or any other motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the rider and designed to travel with no more than 3 wheels in contact with the ground.

Protective Gear

  • Every operator of or rider on a motorcycle must wear protective headgear and eye-goggles if motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield or screen.
  • Motorcyclists are exempt from wearing protective headgear when participating in a parade.


  • Daytime use of headlight not required.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.

Using the Shoulder to Pass

You may only pass a left-turning vehicle on the right if the roadway is free from obstruction and of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

Passing Laws

Do not pass:

  • Whenever there is not an unobstructed view of the road for at least 400 feet

When being passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal visibly
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle

Speed Limits

  • 65 mph on certain parts of interstate highways;
    • Interstate highway route 90;
    • The Massachusetts Turnpike, between the New York State border and the
    • Westfield interchange, and from the Ludlow interchange to the Auburn interchange;
    • Interstate highway route 91 from the Vermont border to Northampton, Exit 21;
    • Interstate 95 from the Newbury interchange 56 to the Danvers interchange 50. MA ST 90 § 17A.
  • 55 mph on any other way;
  • 50 mph on divided highways outside a thickly populated business district;
  • 40 mph on any other highway outside a thickly populated business district;
  • 25 mph inside a thickly populated business district;
  • 20 mph in an established school zone or within a senior safety center zone, if established;
  • 15 mph within 1/10 mile of a vehicle which is selling merchandise and is displaying flashing amber lights.

Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws

Safety Belts

  • Occupants 13 years and older must wear safety belts.
  • Police may not stop vehicles solely for a belt law violation.
  • The fine for a first offense is $25. Drivers may be fined $25 for violating the belt law themselves and $25 for each unrestrained passenger 12 - 16 years old.

Child Seats

  • Children 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in a child seat.
  • Children 8 through 15 years and children who are at least 57 inches tall must be restrained, and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $25.

Emergency Vehicle Laws

Drivers traveling in the same direction and approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle, or tow or recovery vehicle with flashing lights must slow down to a safe speed and, if practicable, move to a non-adjacent lane.

Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency response vehicle
    • Highway maintenance vehicle
    • Recovery vehicle
  • You must do the following:
    • If changing lanes is impracticable, proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions.
    • If on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the operator's vehicle, and it is safe to do so, make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the vehicle if practicable


  • Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 300 feet
  • You must not drive, park, or leave your vehicle unattended within 800 feet of a fire, any emergency vehicle, or any way leading to the scene of a fire.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop
  • Provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or to any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address
    • Vehicle registration number
    • Show driver's license and certificate of registration upon request
  • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, you must report the accident in writing within 5 days after the accident, unless the accident was investigated by a law enforcement officer. If the operator is not the owner of the vehicle and is physically incapable of making such written report, the owner must make the report based on the information he has and can obtain regarding the accident.