Massachusetts uses a graduated license system to advance unlicensed drivers from a learner’s permit, to a junior license, and then finally to an unrestricted license.
At the age of 16 years old, teens can apply for a learner’s permit. The application must be signed by the teen and a parent or guardian and include proof of identity. The applicant must also pass the vision examination and a written test covering traffic signs and traffic laws.
The learner’s permit will be valid for two years and authorizes the holder to operate a vehicle while under the supervision of an adult who is 21 years or older and has held a driver’s license for at least one year. Permit holders are prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless supervised by a parent or guardian.
Driving outside of the curfew or driving without a proper supervisor is considered a driving-without-a-license violation. In addition to the criminal penalties, the learner’s permit will be suspended for 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and one year for a third offense. After the suspension, the driver must reapply and re-test to have his or her permit reinstated. Also, after a second offense violation, the learner’s permit cannot be reinstated until the teen completes an educational course designed to encourage “attitudinal changes.”
A teen (minimum 16-and-a-half years old) who has held a learner’s permit for six months without any moving violations or substance-related convictions, can apply for a junior license.
Before taking the driving test, the applicant and parent or guardian must sign the application and show completion of a certified driver’s education course. This course must include 18 hours of driving instruction, six hours observing other students driving, 12 hours of actual driving, substance-abuse education. The parent of the applicant must also attend at least two hours of the class, including the substance abuse education. The applicant must additionally provide a driving log (signed by a parent or guardian) certifying that the teen has completed at least 40 hours of supervised driving time. This requirement is reduced to 30 hours if the applicant has completed a driver skills development program.
The junior license authorizes the teen to drive unsupervised but with some restrictions. For the first six months, the driver cannot transport any non-family member passengers under the age of 18. This restriction is waived if the teen is supervised by an adult who is at least 21 years old and has held a driver’s license for at least one year. A violation of this restriction will result in a 60-day suspension for a first offense, a 180-day suspension for a second offense, and a one-year suspension for a third offense. Second and subsequent offenses require the completion of a program that encourages attitudinal changes before reinstatement.
The junior licensee is also prohibited from driving between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless accompanied by his or her parent or guardian. Violation of this restriction is considered driving without a license. In addition to the criminal penalties, the driver’s license will be suspended 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and one year for a third offense. A person convicted of a second or subsequent offense must take a program that encourages attitudinal changes prior to license reinstatement.
Junior license holders who are emergency medical technicians or firefighter can be exempt from the curfew requirement.
After turning 18 years old, a junior license holder can generally surrender his or her license to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to receive a valid driver’s license.
All drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cellular phone while operating a vehicle. Violators face the following penalties:
Exceptions exist if the driver was using a phone to report an emergency or vehicle accident.
Before any driver can lawfully operate a vehicle in Massachusetts, the vehicle must be properly insured. Massachusetts requires a mandatory minimum policy of:
Driving without the required insurance is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and/or up to one year in jail. (However, for a first offense, the driver may be eligible for a “Continuance Without a Finding,” which entails a fine of up to $500 but no jail time.) A first violation will result in a 60-day license suspension. A second offense within a six-year period will result in a one-year license suspension.
The court will also require the violator to pay either $500 or the entirety of a one-year insurance premium. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is also authorized to seize and revoke the vehicle’s license plate and registration until proof of insurance is obtained. Obtaining valid insurance within two days can prevent license plate and registration revocation.