Here is a review of the most important Vermont driving laws you need to know.
In Vermont, the driver at fault in an accident is responsible for paying injury and property damage claims of the people and object(s) struck. Because Vermont is a modified comparative negligence state, a plaintiff cannot recover losses if they have an equal or greater responsibility in the accident than the defendant. To recover losses, they must be less than 50 percent at fault in an accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Vermont drivers must have uninsured motorist coverage. The minimum coverage is $50,000 in per-person injury with $100,000 in per-accident injury. You can add more coverage if you wish.
Vermont allows drivers to stack uninsured motorist coverage. When you stack coverage, you combine the uninsured motorist coverage from multiple policies within your household. Combining coverage gives you higher coverage limits and protects you in more serious accidents.
Let’s say you have two cars, each with a minimum of $50,000 and $100,000 in uninsured motorist limits. If there is an accident, you get the sum of both uninsured motorist coverage policies, or $100,000 and $200,000 in coverage per person and per accident, respectively.
Vermont DUI Laws
Vermont has strict laws around driving under the influence. If your blood alcohol content is at least 0.16 percent when a police officer stops you, you’ll get a DUI conviction. The DUI will stay on your record for as long as you have a Vermont license, and your license will be suspended for 90 days.
The penalty for a DUI is up to $750 for the first offense, with up to two years in prison. The penalty for a second offense is a fine of up to $1,500 with another possible two years in prison.
You will need to use an ignition interlock for six months after your first offense, 18 months after the second, and three years after the third. If the state convicts you of a fourth DUI, it will suspend your license permanently.
Seat Belt Laws
Vermont requires all occupants of a car to wear seat belts. If you are under the age of 18 and found without a belt on, that is a primary offense and the officer can ticket you without needing another traffic violation to stop you. If you are over 18, seat belt laws are a secondary offense, meaning the officer can’t ticket you for a seat belt infraction alone.
Each person not wearing a seat belt in the car can get a ticket. The fine for the first violation is $25, the second is $50, and the third and any subsequent violations are $100.
Distracted Driving Laws in Vermont
You can get a ticket if an officer catches you driving while distracted. There is a ban on handheld devices for all drivers. The ban also specifically forbids texting and driving.
Distracted driving is a primary offense; the first offense can cost $100 to $200, and the second within two years ranges from $250 to $500. A distracted driving ticket will put two points on your driving record and increase your insurance rates.
Teen Driving Laws
Drivers under the age of 18 are subject to the rules of Vermont’s Graduated License laws. These laws state that a person who is 15 or older can operate a motor vehicle as long as they hold a learner’s permit and have one of the following licensed and unimpaired drivers with them:
- A parent or guardian
- A driver education instructor
- An individual at least 25 years old
A teen driver must have a learner’s permit for at least one year before obtaining a junior driver’s license. A teen with a junior driver’s license cannot operate a vehicle for employment for at least one year or until they reach age 18. During the first three months of having a junior driver’s license, the driver must drive alone or with one of the individuals listed above. No one with a junior driver’s license can carry a passenger for hire.4
Statute of Limitations for Claims
There is a statute of limitations for claims in Vermont. Drivers have three years to file property claims or bodily injury claims resulting from an accident. If they file a claim after the statute of limitations passes, the insurance company will not accept their claim.5
Cancellation/Non-Renewal Notification Laws
An insurance company can cancel your policy or not renew it for various reasons, including failure to pay premiums and fraud. While an insurance company cannot cancel you for a high number of claims after the first 30 days of the policy, it can choose not to renew the policy at the end of the term for a high claims volume.
If an insurance carrier chooses to cancel or not renew your policy due to failure to pay, it must give you at least 15 days’ notice. For other midterm cancellations and non-renewals, the company must give you 45 days’ written notice so that you have enough time to get coverage elsewhere.
Vermont allows you to self-insure a car by filing a bond of $115,000 with the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. You must maintain this bond for the duration of the car registration or until you obtain other insurance.6
Car Inspection Requirements
Vermont requires every owner to have their registered vehicle pass a state-approved inspection once a year. Inspection stations might be gas stations or mechanics shops. Newly registered vehicles not inspected in the state must get an inspection within 15 days of registration. The inspection site completes the inspections, provides you with a proof-of-inspection sticker, and files the completed inspection with the state.
An SR-22 is a financial responsibility insurance certificate confirming with the state that serious traffic violation offenders are adhering to the state’s insurance requirements. Serious traffic violations include DUIs and reckless driving citations. In Vermont, drivers who need SR-22s must obtain them for three years after the offense.
A defensive driver course teaches drivers how to avoid hazards and remain safe. You can complete courses online or in person. Vermont doesn’t list the instances that require you to take a course, however.
Some insurance carriers offer discounts if you complete a defensive driver course. See if your insurance company offers a discount or provides a list of approved courses.
Serious Injury and Monetary Thresholds
There is no monetary threshold to sue someone in Vermont. If you are injured in an accident, you have the right to sue the other party regardless of the injury’s value or severity.
Accident Reporting Requirements
Vermont requires you to file a police report if you are in an accident with injuries or property damage valued at $3,000 or more. You have three days to file the report or you could be fined. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles does not say how much the fine will be.
Vermont drivers buying auto insurance must provide carriers with their Social Security numbers. Carriers run credit scores to help determine insurance scores; credit scores allow them to estimate how likely someone is to file a claim. Insurance prices may also vary based on sex. Carriers consider men higher risk, so men pay more for auto insurance in Vermont, as do people with poor credit scores.
When Is a Car Declared a Total Loss?
Every Vermont insurance carrier must use a total-loss formula to determine whether a damaged vehicle is repairable. The car is totaled if its salvage value is less than the repair cost.