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Montana New Resident Guide

Welcome to Montana! 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 Montana. 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



  • A person has 10 days to notify the MVD of change of name or change of address.
  • Individuals with out-of-state licenses who wish to obtain a Montana driver license must apply for a Montana driver license within 60 days of moving to the state if seeking a non-commercial driver license and within 30 days if they need a commercial license.
  • New residents must apply for a Montana vehicle title and register their vehicles within 60 days of establishing residency.


Graduated Licensing Program



Learner's Permit

Requirements

  • Applicants may obtain a Traffic Education Learner's License (TELL) as early as age 14 and 6 months, only if enrolled in state approved traffic education program;
  • Must be 16, or 15 and have completed state approved traffic education program;
  • Must pass exams.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • TELL permit holders must be supervised by a licensed parent or guardian;
  • Learner License holders must be supervised by a licensed parent or guardian, or a licensed driver age 18 years or older who is authorized by the parent or guardian;
  • Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt..

First Year Restricted License

Requirements

  • Must have held permit for at least 6 months with no traffic violations or alcohol/drug offenses;
  • Must have completed 50 hours (10 nighttime) of certified driving;
  • If younger than 16, must have completed driver education.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May not drive unsupervised between 11 PM and 5 AM;
  • During first 6 months, may transport no more than 1 passenger younger than 18;
  • During second 6 months, may transport no more than 3 passengers younger than 18;
  • Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.

Unrestricted License

  • Requirements
    • Restrictions automatically end on date indicated on back of driver license, or when individual turns 18, whichever occurs first.


Violation Point Counts

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



15 Points

  • Deliberate homicide

12 Points

  • Negligent homicide (vehicular)
  • Negligent vehicular assault

10 Points

  • Felonies (vehicular)
  • DUI
  • BAC of .08 or greater

6 Points

  • Driving with a suspended/revoked license

5 Points

  • Reckless driving - driving with willful & wanton disregard for the safety of persons & property
  • Insurance violation
  • Drag racing

4 Points

  • Hit and run (property)

3 Points

  • Speeding

2 Points

  • Driving without a valid license
  • Careless driving
  • Stop sign violation
  • Right of way violation
  • Following too closely
  • Other moving violations

Length of Time Points Stay on Record

  • While convictions older than three years may not affect your insurance rates, convictions for second or subsequent DUI will affect your record for five years between the date of the prior offense and the most recent offense.
  • Conviction points remain on a driving record for three years from the conviction date.
  • While the points are removed after three years, the convictions become a permanent part of a driving record.
  • Completing a defensive driving class does not remove points from a driving record.

When determined by the record that an individual has 30 habitual offender points within three years, the Driver Control Bureau revokes the driver license for a period of three years. A person revoked as a Habitual Traffic Offender may apply for a probationary license after serving one year of the three year revocation, if eligible. Depending on the past driving history, proof of financial responsibility must be filed with the Motor Vehicle Division and all driver license fees must be paid and tests completed before a license is issued.



Insurance Requirements



Liability insurance is mandatory (except for motorcycles). Owners shall continuously provide insurance of not less than:

  • $25,000 - Bodily Injury or Death of one person in any one accident.
  • $50,000 - Bodily Injury or Death of two persons in any one accident.
  • $10,000 - Injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.

This insurance must be in effect in the vehicle being operated. You must carry your insurance card, issued by an insurance company, and exhibit it upon demand by a law enforcement officer.



Headlight Laws



Dim high beam headlights when meeting other cars, when 1000 feet away. Turn off high beam headlights when 500 feet behind other vehicles.

You must use your headlights:

  • If you can't see 500 feet ahead.
  • 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • In conditions of insufficient light/adverse weather.

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing.



Implied Consent Laws



  • First refusal - Suspension 6 months (mandatory).
  • Second or subsequent refusal (within 5 years) - Revocation 1 year (mandatory).


DUI Penalties



DUI (misdemeanor)

First Conviction

  • 24 hours - 6 months imprisonment
  • $300 - $1,000 fine
  • License suspension 6 months

Second Conviction (within 5 years)

  • 7 days - 1 year imprisonment
  • $600 - $1,000 fine
  • License suspension 1 year

Third Conviction (within 5 years)

  • 30 days - 1 year imprisonment
  • $1,000 - $5,000 fine
  • License suspension 1 year

Fourth or Subsequent Conviction (within 5 years) (felony)

  • Up to 13 months imprisonment plus 5 years suspended
  • $1,000 - $10,000 fine
  • License suspension 1 year

Excessive BAC (misdemeanor)

First Conviction

  • Up to 10 days imprisonment
  • $300 - $1,000 fine
  • License suspension 6 months

Second Conviction (within 5 years)

  • 5 days - 30 days imprisonment
  • $600 - $1,000 fine
  • License suspension 1 year

Third Conviction (within 5 years)

  • 10 days - 6 months imprisonment
  • $1,000 - $5,000
  • License suspension 1 year

Fourth or Subsequent Conviction

  • Up to 13 months imprisonment plus 5 years suspended
  • $1,000 - $10,000 fine
  • License suspension 1 year

Other

Child Endangerment

  • Additional fines and jail time apply for DUI or Excessive BAC with passenger under 16 in vehicle

Ignition Interlock

  • First conviction - Court may order person to drive only with ignition interlock after license restored
  • Second conviction - Court MUST order person to drive only with ignition interlock after license restored


Open Container Law



Montana's open container law makes it unlawful for a person to "knowingly" possess an open alcoholic beverage container while in the passenger area of a motor vehicle.



Red Light Violation Fines



  • Red light cameras are prohibited.
  • Fines for red light violations may range from $10 - $100.


Construction Zone Penalties



  • All traffic violations when workers are present are subject to two times the original fine.
  • Under a separate law, reckless endangerment of highway workers is a misdemeanor, and is punishable by 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $25 to $300.


Turn Signal Information



In any business, residential, or urban district, signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance. In any other area, for example in rural areas, signal at least 300 feet in advance.



Hazard Light Information



Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.



Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws



  • Pedestrians and other vehicles must yield right-of-way to funeral processions.
  • Processions must yield to emergency vehicles or when directed otherwise by a police officer.
  • The driver of the funeral escort vehicle may direct the other vehicles in the procession to proceed through an intersection or make any other movements despite any traffic control device.
  • Once the lead escort vehicle has entered an intersection lawfully, all other vehicles may proceed without regard to the traffic signal.


School Bus Laws



Requirements

  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on a different roadway or is stopped in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to a controlled access highway.
  • Vehicles must stop at least 30 feet from the bus.

Penalties

  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required is punishable by a fine of up to $500.


Bicyclist Passing Distance



You are required to pass at a safe distance.



Motorcycle Laws



Licensing

  • A license is not valid for the operation of a motorcycle or quadricycle unless the holder of the license has successfully completed a road or skills test for a motorcycle or quadricycle and the license has been clearly marked with a motorcycle endorsement.

Protective Gear

  • All operators and passengers under 18 years of age of a motorcycle or quadricycle must wear protective headgear approved by the DOJ.

Headlights

  • Motorcycles and quadricycles must be operated with lights on at all times unless the vehicle is registered as a collector's item. If the vehicle is registered as a collector's item, it is only required to be operated with lights at nighttime and during periods of poor visibility.

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 not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.



Passing Laws



Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn or using signal lamps.
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
  • When giving way to the right on a two-lane highway, the operator of the vehicle being overtaken may travel upon the shoulder at a safe speed until passed if the shoulder is wide enough and is in a condition allowing safe travel.

Exceeding speed limit to pass:

  • When traveling on a two-lane road, a person may exceed the speed limit by 10 mph in order to overtake and pass another vehicle.


Speed Limits



  • 75 mph at all times on Federal-aid interstate highways outside an urbanized area with population 50,000 or more.
  • 65 mph at all times on Federal-aid interstate highways within an urbanized area with a population 50,000 or more.
  • 70 mph during the daytime and 65 mph during the nighttime on any other public highway.
    • "Daytime" means one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
    • "Nighttime" means any other hour except daytime.
  • 25 mph in an urban district.
  • When traveling on a two-lane road, a person may exceed the speed limit by 10 mph in order to overtake and pass another vehicle.


Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws



Safety Belts

  • Occupants 6 years and older must wear safety belts.
  • Police may not stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $20.

Child Seats

  • Children 5 years and younger who are less than 60 pounds must be in a child seat, and may not use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $100.


Emergency Vehicle Laws



Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency vehicle
    • Police vehicle
  • You must do the following:
    • Reduce the vehicle's speed, proceed with caution, and, if possible considering safety and traffic conditions, move to a lane that is not adjacent to the stopped vehicle or move as far away from the vehicle as possible.
    • If changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, reduce the speed of the vehicle and maintain a safe speed for road conditions.
    • If on a public highway with a posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour or greater when driving in a lane that is directly next to the emergency vehicle or police vehicle, the operator of the approaching vehicle shall reduce the vehicle's speed by at least 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.

Following

  • Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire call closer than 500 feet or drive into or stop the vehicle within 500 feet of where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire call.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled
  • Call police immediately if necessary:
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, you must immediately report the accident to the local police department, county sheriff, or state patrol. If the driver is unable to make the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is able to must do so.
    • If the police are required to be called, you must remain at the scene of the accident until an on-duty peace officer with authority to investigate the accident gives the driver express permission to leave, unless it is necessary to leave the scene in order to seek emergency medical care for any person involved in the accident or to report the accident to the authorities.
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address
    • Vehicle registration number
    • Show driver's license upon request
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • Unattended vehicle or property:
    • If you have collided with a vehicle that is unattended, locate and notify the operator or owner if possible of the driver's name and address and the owner's name and address. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information and a statement of the circumstances.
    • If you have collided with other unattended property on or adjacent to a highway, locate and notify the owner if possible of the driver's name and address, the vehicle registration number, and show your driver's license if requested.
  • Report crash:
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, you must report the accident in writing within 10 days after the accident, unless the accident was investigated by a law enforcement officer.
    • If the driver is physically incapable of making a written report, and the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle must make the report.


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