Of course, having car insurance is only one of many of Massachusetts’ driving laws. Let’s go over some of the most important laws you need to know as a driver in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is a no-fault state, meaning each driver pays their own medical costs under PIP, regardless of fault. However, the at-fault driver still pays for the other party’s property damages. Since Massachusetts has modified comparative negligence laws, the victim can only receive money if they’re less than 50 percent responsible for the accident.4
More on that pesky 4 percent of uninsured drivers. While Massachusetts requires drivers to have uninsured motorist coverage, it does not require its cousin, underinsured motorist coverage. Additionally, Massachusetts doesn’t allow stacking, which means multiplying the number of cars on your policy by your uninsured motorist limits. So even if you have five cars under a $20,000/$40,000 limit, your limit would stay the same.
That being said, driving in Massachusetts is much safer, thanks to the high rates of insured drivers. Given that the average state has an estimated 12 percent of uninsured drivers, Massachusetts fares better by a whopping 75 percent.5
A DUI may take place in a night, but its effects can last for years. In Massachusetts, DUIs will stay on your record for five years. For your first offense, you could receive a 90-day license suspension, with limited driving privileges for trips to work or school.
If your blood alcohol concentration was 0.02 percent or higher, you could face even more penalties, and if it’s a repeat conviction, you’ll have to use a DUI interlock for two years. The average rates for car insurance increase by 80 percent for drivers with DUIs, according to our research on DUIs and car insurance.
Seat Belt Laws
Everyone 13 and older in all seats of a car must wear seat belts in Massachusetts. However, this law is secondary, meaning that law enforcement can’t pull you over solely for not wearing seat belts. You can only get ticketed for this if you’ve also violated a primary enforcement law.
Distracted Driving Laws
Texting and driving may be ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. In Massachusetts, you can only use hands-free devices while driving. Unlike seat belts, this law is under primary enforcement, so if the police see you using a handheld electronic device while driving, they could pull you over for this action alone.
There are steep penalties for cell phone usage while driving.
- First offense: $100 fine, two points added to your driving record
- Second offense: $250 fine, two points added to your driving record, mandatory completion of distracted driving education course
- Third offense: $500 fine, two points added to your driving record, insurance surcharge
Teen Driver Laws
Maybe you’re brushing up on your state’s laws because you’re a teen driver. To drive in Massachusetts, you must first get a learner’s permit, then complete the driver’s education accomplishments before getting a Class D or M license.
- Learner’s permit: If you have a learner’s permit, you can only drive while accompanied by a licensed driver who is over 21 and has been driving for more than a year. If you’re under 18, you can’t drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian with at least a year of driving experience and a valid license.
- Driver’s education requirements: If you are under 18 and want to get a Class D or M license, you’ll need to complete 30 hours of instruction on Massachusetts car laws and vehicle operation. You’ll also need 18 hours of instruction in a vehicle — 12 hours behind the wheel and six hours of observation.
- Driver’s license requirements: Once you’ve had a valid learner’s permit and a clean driving record for six months plus the required driver education, you’ll need to complete 40 hours of supervised driving, or 30 hours if you’ve completed a driver skills development program. A parent or guardian must certify these hours and participate in two hours of a driver’s ed course, unless they did it with an older sibling within the last five years. You’ll then need to pass a final driving exam, perhaps the scariest part of the process.
Claims Statutes of Limitations
When it comes to filing claims, the sooner the better. In Massachusetts, if you wait more than three years after an accident to file a personal injury or property damage claim, your insurance provider won’t need to cover it, as it falls outside the statute of limitations.
Non-Renewal and Cancellation Notification Laws
Say your insurance provider wants to cancel your policy before its expiration date. If it’s because of fraud, misrepresentation, nonpayment, or a revoked or suspended license on your part, the company must notify you 20 days before the policy expires.
For non-renewals, which means that the company decides not to renew your policy at the end of your term, it has 45 days to alert you before the expiration date, according to the Massachusetts Commonwealth website. Learn more about the difference between cancellation and non-renewals.
Although Massachusetts requires car insurance for all drivers, it doesn’t say that you have to get your insurance from a provider like Allstate. You can self-insure if you can prove that you can pay any judgments against you. However, self-insurance is completely at the discretion of the insurance commissioner, and it’s a rarity in this state and beyond.
Before your insurance company covers your car for physical damages, you’ll need to get it inspected, unless it’s:
- From a franchised dealership with either:
- A copy of the bill of sale, which includes a full description of the car
- A copy of Form 1 from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), which shows the transfer of ownership from the dealer to you
- A copy of the window sticker or dealer invoice that shows itemized options or equipment and the total retail price
If your car doesn’t fall into these categories, you’ll need to get it inspected through CARCO. CARCO will complete the state inspection report form and take pictures of your car. You’ll sign the form, and then CARCO will submit it to your insurance company. Inspection is free and takes about 15 minutes.6
SR-22s, proof of minimum insurance, aren’t required in Massachusetts. Rather, you can prove your coverage with your insurance ID card.
Defensive Driving Courses
If you’re ordered to take a defensive driving course, use this URL to find a course: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/driver-attitudinal-retraining-courses.