A Guide to New England's Basic Driving Laws

Written by on 7/25/2012 10:09 AM in , , . It has 0 Comments.

Basic Driving Laws in New England 

As I live in New Hampshire, the "Live Free or Die" state, I often forget that we are not subject to some of the driving laws of our neighboring states.  This came to light the other day as I was driving through Connecticut while talking on my cell phone.  Though this practice is not encouraged on NH roads, it is not illegal.  As I cruised down the highway, chatting away, I quickly saw a sea of brake lights ahead of me, warning me of an upcoming speed trap.  I slowed down and thought, "I wonder if it is even legal to be talking on a cell phone while driving?"  Instead of rolling the dice, I quickly hung-up and continued my journey cell-phone free.

Given New England is comprised of numerous small states, people can easily cross a state line and suddenly be subject to a law that they were not just a few miles back.  As any moving violation will increase your NH car insurance premium, I thought it would be helpful to collect information from each of the New England states on basic driving laws.  I obtained the information from DMV.org.

Basic New Hampshire Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • Children under 18 years old must wear a seat belt.
Child Car Seat
  • Children under 6 years old or under 55 inches tall must ride in a federally-approved safety seat or booster.
Cell Phones and Texting
  • There is not a law banning cell phone use.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age or license status.
Motorcycles
  • All riders and passengers under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise or when visibility due to inclement weather is reduced to 1,000 feet or less.

Basic Maine Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • All passengers must wear a seat belt unless passenger is older than one year old, and there are more people in the vehicle than seat belts or the driver or passenger has a disability or other medical condition that makes it unsafe or impossible to wear a seat belt (physician's documentation required).  Mail carriers in the process of delivering mail are also not required to wear a seat belt.
Child Car Seat
  • All children who weigh less than 40 lbs. must ride in an approved child safety seat.
Cell Phones and Texting
  • All learner permit and intermediate license holders are banned from cell phone usage.
  • Texting is banned for those with a learner's permit or intermediate license.
Motorcycles
  • If under the age of 15 and a passenger of a motorcycle or attached side car, or are the driver of an off-road motorcycle, protective headgear must be worn.
  • Protective headgear is also required if driving on a learner's permit or within one year of satisfying a driving test.
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise or when viability due to inclement weather is reduced to 1,000 feet or less, or whenever you use your windshield wipers.

Basic Massachusetts Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • All drivers and passengers who are 12 years and older must wear seat belts.  Exceptions include:
  1. Drivers and passengers who have proof from a physician that a disability or medical condition makes wearing a seat belt dangerous or impossible,
  2. Drivers and passengers of vehicles made before July 1966,
  3. Taxi, livery, tractor, bus and truck drivers (truck must have a gross vehicle weight of at least 18,000 lbs.),
  4. Emergency vehicle passengers and police and fire truck drivers, and
  5. Postal workers on duty.

Child Car Seat

  • Children under 12 years old must ride in a federally approved child safety seat until they are 5 years old and weigh at least 40 lbs..
  • Children older than 5 years but younger than 12 years, who weigh more than 40 lbs., must ride in a booster seat or use safety belts.

NOTE: It is not the age that determines when a child no longer has to ride in a safety seat, but rather the weight.

Cell Phones and Texting
  • All drivers younger than 18 are banned from all cell phone usage.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age or license status
Motorcycles
  • All motorcycle, moped, ATV and scooter riders, regardless of age, must wear a helmet that meets the minimum safety standards as defined by the Department of Transportation. 
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise, adverse weather conditions make it difficult to see, or when you can't clearly see other people and vehicles in front of you.

Basic Vermont Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • All occupants of a vehicle 18 years and older are required to wear safety belts in all seating positions in the vehicle.

Exceptions to the Vermont Seat Belt Law

  1. Farm tractors,
  2. Anyone occupying buses or taxis,
  3. Emergency vehicles when necessary,
  4. The vehicle was not manufactured with seat belts,
  5. Anyone properly secured with Child Restraint Systems,
  6. United States Postal Service rural mail carriers while performing their duties, and
  7. Anyone ordered by a law enforcement authority to evacuate persons from a stricken area.
Child Car Seat
  • All passengers under the age of 18 must be restrained with a federally approved child passenger restraint system or safety belt system.
  1. Children under the age of 1 and all children weighing under 20 lbs. must be secured in a rear facing position in a federally approved child passenger restraining system,
  2. The rear facing child passenger restraining system (Rear Facing Infant Car Seat or Rear Facing Convertible Car Seat etc.) may not be installed in front of an active vehicle air bag,
  3. Children 1 - 7 years of age that weigh more than 20 lbs. must be secured with a child passenger restraining system (such as a car seat), and
  4. Children 8 -17 years of age must be secured with a safety belt system or a child passenger restraining system (such as a booster seat).
Cell Phones and Texting
  • All drivers under 18 are banned from using cell phones.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age or license status
Motorcycles
  • All riders and passengers are required to wear a helmet.
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise
  • Headlights must allow you to see 150' ahead of you.

Basic Rhode Island Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • Any passenger age 13 or older must be restrained wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness.
  • All vehicle operators must be restrained wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness.
Child Car Seat
  • Children under age 7, less than 54" tall, and weighing less than 80 lbs.. must be transported in the rear seating position of a motor vehicle and properly restrained in a child restraint system.  However, children under the age of 7 can be exempt from being transported in the rear seating position if the vehicle does not have a back seat or all rear positions are already being occupied by other children.
  • Children between 7 and 12 must be wearing a properly fitting seat belt.
Cell Phones and Texting
  • Drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers can be ticketed for using a cell phone while driving.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age or license status.
Motorcycles

Rhode Island does not mandate motorcycle helmet usage for the general population, but the following provisions apply:

  • All passengers must wear helmets, regardless of age.
  • All operators must wear helmets during the first year of having a motorcycle license, regardless of age.
  • Operators under the age of 20 are legally required to wear helmets whenever traveling on RI roads.
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from sunset to sunrise or when you can't see more than 500 feet in front of your vehicle or weather conditions require use of your windshield wipers.

Basic Connecticut Driving Laws

Seat Belts
  • Anyone riding in the front seat of a vehicle, regardless of age, must wear a seat belt.  All rear-seat passengers between 4-16 must be restrained by an appropriate safety system.
Child Car Seat
  • Children under 7 and weighing less than 60 lbs. must ride in a child safety seat. 
  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 lbs. must be in a rear-facing seat.
  • After child exceeds these limits, the child must be secured in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt until they outgrow the booster seat.
Cell Phones and Texting
  • Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use cell phones (including hands-free type) or any mobile electronic device while driving.
  • Drivers over 18 may only use hands-free cell phones while driving.
  • Exception to cell phone usage is if an emergency situation like calling ambulance or police.
  • Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age or license status
Motorcycles
  • All motorcycle operators under the age of 18 must wear a helmet.
  • Drivers 18 and older are required to wear a helmet if they only have a motorcycle permit and not a motorcycle license.
  • All drivers, regardless of age, must wear protective eye wear, unless cycle is equipped with a windshield.
Headlights
  • Headlights must be turned on from one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise or when impossible to see at least 500 feet ahead or during periods of precipitation
Hopefully you will find this guide helpful. The bottom line is to use common sense no matter where you drive, so wear your seat belt, motorcycle helmet, ensure your children are appropriately restrained, and don't text or use your cell phone while driving...oh and don't forget those headlights.  That way you won't risk getting a ticket for these violations no matter where you drive.  Like anything though, laws can change, so visit the appropriate state's Department of Motor Vehicle for the most current laws.  Happy Travels!

This material is for informational purposes only.  All statements herein are subject to the applicable laws within each state and are subject to change. 


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