Driving in Massachusetts
Getting the correct information about driver licensing regulations in the U.S. can be hard and confusion exists surrounding this subject. The most accurate information that we have been able to gather is included here, however regulations do often change. Regardless of what information is currently being given out, International Student and Scholar Services recommends that a Massachusetts driver's license is obtained as soon as possible to avoid trouble. It is all too common that we hear of an international student who has gotten in trouble for driving with a foreign license. International driving agreements exist between certain countries around the world. These agreements allow citizens of those countries to drive in the United States for up to one year with a home-country driver's license, provided it is readable in English. Individuals from countries that do not have agreements with the U.S., those who have been here more than a year, or those who have only an international driver's license or no license at all, will need to get a Massachusetts driver's license.
- To get a driver's license you will need three forms of identification. Bring your passport and all visa documents (including your Form I-20, IAP-66 or I-797), your Bay Path student ID, as well as your Social Security card, if you have one. The Registry of Motor Vehicles is currently very reluctant to issue a driver's license to anyone who does not have a Social Security Number. The nearest Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is in Springfield.
- Springfield RMV, 165 Liberty Street, Springfield, MA.
Hours: Mon. – Wed. 9am – 5pm. Thurs. 10am – 6 pm. Fri. 9am – 5 pm
- If you have an international driver's license or a valid driver's license from a country that has an agreement with the United States, or a license from another U.S. state, you can contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make an appointment. You will receive a booklet and must study the Massachusetts road laws. Be prepared to take an eye test and a written test; no road test will be required. If you pass, you must pay a fee to receive your new Massachusetts driver's license.
- If you do not have a valid license of any kind, or come from a country that does not have an agreement with the United States, call the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make an appointment. You will receive a booklet and must study the Massachusetts road laws. You must then pay part of the fee to take the written test and the eye test. If you pass, you will be given a Learner's Permit and will have to take a road test later. If you pass all three tests, you will pay the remainder of the fee to receive your new Massachusetts driver's license. A rented car may not be used with a Learner's Permit or used to take the road test. You will need to take a friend who has a valid license and owns a car with you while learning to drive, and for your test.
- If you are not planning to obtain a driver's license, you may want to consider getting a Massachusetts State Identification Card; it is wise to have some form of official identification so you will not have to carry your passport with you on a regular basis. You can obtain a state ID from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. As with the driver's license, you will need three forms of identification. Bring your passport and all visa documents, your Bay Path ID, and your Social Security card, if you have one.
Each of the 50 states has its own traffic rules. You can obtain a list from the Registry of Motor Vehicles for this state. Below are some general driving rules that apply everywhere in the U.S.
- Drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Keep in the right-hand lane at all times when driving on two-lane roads, unless you are passing another car in a passing zone.
- Always signal left or right when you turn or change lanes.
- Obey speed limits. In most areas, speed limits are strictly enforced and offenders must pay fines. Getting tickets or "points" on your license will also result in an increase in the cost of your car insurance, and may eventually result in the loss of your driving license. Radar detectors are illegal in some states.
- Although a red traffic light always means stop, some states, but not all, permit a right turn to be made at a red light after you have come to a full stop and checked if the way is clear, provided there is no sign prohibiting the turn. In this situation, you must yield to oncoming traffic. This "right on red" law is in effect in Massachusetts.
- Passing on a curve, at an intersection, and near the top of a hill is prohibited.
- Passing a school bus that is loading or unloading children is prohibited; whether you are behind the bus on the same side of the road, or facing the bus on the opposite side of the road.
- Reduced speed limits are in effect in all school zones.
- Parking on the highway is prohibited. Pull completely off the road if you must stop.