Massachusetts law about traffic violations

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on traffic violations law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.85, § 15 Lights on vehicles
Headlights must be on when windshield wipers are needed.

MGL c.89 Law of the road

  • MGL c.89, § 7C Move over law
    Requires drivers to move "into a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or recovery vehicle" whenever possible.
  • MGL c.89, § 7D Vehicles in crash involving only property damage to be moved out of travel lane

MGL c.90 Motor Vehicles

  • MGL. c.90, § 3 Motor vehicles owned by non-residents
    A nonresident enrolled as a student at a school or college in the commonwealth who operates a motor vehicle registered in another state must file with local police a statement that provides ownership, registration information, and liability insurance coverage information.
  • MGL c.90, § 7AA Child passenger restraints
  • MGL c.90, § 8 Operator's licenses
    An applicant for the renewal of a license 75 years of age or older shall apply for a renewal in person at a registry branch office.
  • MGL c.90, § 8M Use of mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device by person under 18 years of age while operating motor vehicle prohibited
  • MGL c.90, § 13B  Use of hand-held devices. “No operator of a motor vehicle shall hold a mobile electronic device.”
  • MGL c.90, § 14A Commonly known as the Mass. White Cane Law
    Provides protection for blind pedestrians crossing or attempting to cross ways.

MGL c.90C Procedure for motor vehicle offenses

Massachusetts regulations

211 CMR 74 Standards of fault

211 CMR 134 Safe driver insurance plan
Lists minor and major traffic accidents and offenses which subject the violator to "points" on their auto insurance.

540 CMR Registry of Motor Vehicles

700 CMR 7.04 Electronic toll collection

Federal regulations

76 FR 75470 Restricting the use of cellular phones by commercial motor vehicle drivers, as corrected by 76 FR 82179
Restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

Selected case law

Comm. v. Buckley, 478 Mass. 861 (2018) Pretextual stops
Police may stop a vehicle for an observed traffic violation, even if it is actually a pretext to investigate other crimes. 

Comm. v. Goncalves-Mendez, 484 Mass. 80 (2020) Allowing passenger to take custody of vehicle
When police arrest a driver, and know that a passenger is a licensed driver, they should offer the driver the option of having the passenger take the car, rather than impounding it.

Comm. v. Larose, 483 Mass. 323 (2019) Lane violation - moving onto shoulder
Moving from the travel lane onto the shoulder of the road, crossing the "fog line" marking the right side of the lane, without first determining that it is safe to do, is a lane violation.

Comm. v. Long, 485 Mass. 711 (2020) Pretextual traffic stops and racial profiling

Comm. v. Mansur, 484 Mass. 172 (2020)
Having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is a civil, not criminal, offense.

Comm. v. Mongardi, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 5 (1988)
A person issued a citation for a civil Motor vehicle infraction has no right to jury trial.  

Comm. v. O'Leary, 480 Mass. 67 (2018)
Extensive discussion of the "no-fix" law, MGL c.90C, s.2.  "A Superior Court judge properly dismissed indictments charging the defendant with various  motor vehicle offenses, where a State police trooper did not give the defendant a copy of the  citation at the time and place of the violation, and where the nine-day delay in the issuance  of the citation, in the absence of any justification, contravened the antiabuse purpose of the  “no-fix” provision of G. L. c. 90C, § 2."

Comm. v. Ortiz, 478 Mass. 820 (2018)
A "driver's consent to allow police officers to search for narcotics or firearms 'in the vehicle' did not authorize an officer to search under the hood of the vehicle."

Comm. v. Rijo, 98 Mass. App. Ct. 871 (2020)
A charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing personal injury, under G. L. c. 90, § 24 (2) (a 1/2) (1), requires proof that the defendant knew that personal injury or collision with a person occurred.

Crawford v. Blue, 271 F.Supp.3d 316 (2017)
Massachusetts' non-refundable $25 filing fee to challenge a motor vehicle ticket violates due process, and so motorists who successfully challenge their ticket before a Clerk-Magistrate are entitled to a refund of their $25 filing fee by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Gillespie v. City of Northampton, 460 Mass. 148 (2011)
"[T]he imposition of $275 in filing fees to obtain judicial review of a final decision of a municipal parking clerk regarding a parking citation [does not offend] the Massachusetts Constitution."

Police Department of Salem v. Sullivan, 460 Mass. 637 (2011)
Court OKs substantial filing fees to contest civil motor vehicle citations. In footnote 7, the court states, "the requirement in St.2009, c. 27, § 74, of a fifty dollar fee to appeal the clerk-magistrate's finding is in conflict with rule VII(b)(3) of the Trial Court Rules, the Uniform Rule on Civil Motor Vehicle Infractions (LexisNexis 2010–2011), which states that '[t]here shall be no filing fee for an appeal to a judge from the finding and disposition of a clerk-magistrate. We recognize that, where a court rule is in irreconcilable conflict with a statute, 'the statute supersedes the rule.'"

Court rules

Web sources

Appeal your traffic ticket, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Explains how to appeal a ticket.

Cell phone and texting laws, Governors Highway Safety Association, 2021.
Provides a chart of all state cell phone and text messaging laws.

Citable motor vehicle offenses and CMVI assessments, effective October 23, 2013.
Lists the fines for motor vehicle infractions, and indicates offenses which carry criminal penalties.

Clear snow from your car or get pulled over, state police warn drivers,, Jan. 2019.
"In Massachusetts, police can use a couple of statutes to enforce snow-clearing. ...officers can issue a $40 fine for impeded operation if a driver has obstructed windows and a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load, which can include heavy sheets of snow or ice on a car's roof."

Discretionary, mandatory, and public safety suspensions, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Provides a list and brief description of types of suspensions and revocations.

IIHS research bibliography, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Search for statistics and laws on highway safety issues by topic. Also details selected motor vehicle laws by state, including cell phone laws, seat belt and child seat laws, marijuana lawsalcohol interlock laws, and more. 

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Federal Highway Administration, 2009 edition.
MUTCD defines the standards used nationwide to install and maintain the signs, signals, and pavement markings on all streets and highways. See also: Massachusetts Amendments to the 2009 MUTCD (2012)

Massachusetts driver's manuals, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles.
These manuals include all the key information needed to drive legally in Massachusetts. Chapters include: obtaining your license, keeping your license, rules of the road, and more

Pay a citation online, Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Traffic tickets, Mass. District Court.
"Find information about motor vehicle violations, what to do if you get a traffic ticket, and how to appeal a traffic ticket and court decision."

Print sources

Beat your ticket : go to court & win by David Brown, Nolo, c2013.

Massachusetts motor vehicle offenses2nd ed., MCLE, loose leaf.


Last updated: December 20, 2022

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