Massachusetts Graduated Drivers License Program
Today, most of the states have graduated license programs that were designed to keep young drivers safe during their first years of driving. Massachusetts is no exception to this rule and the Massachusetts graduated drivers license program features the same key elements as GDL programs of other states, such as mandatory drivers education programs, supervised driving hours and prolonged drivers permit holding periods. The Massachusetts graduated license program applies only to drivers under age of 18, so if you are already 18 years old, you may follow a simplified application procedure when trying to obtain your MA drivers license. Keep in mind that even though most of the GDL rules don't apply to you, you will still have to take the Massachusetts permit test!
The reason behind the graduated license law is the fact that teenage drivers face a very high risk of having a traffic accident during their first year of driving. When you work through all of the statistical data of about traffic accidents that involve teen drivers, you realize that most of those accidents are caused by just a few simple factors that could be prevented: lack of experience, distractions by cell phone or other peers in the vehicle, speeding.
Inexperience is the main risk factor new drivers have to worry about. Most of the people who receive a Massachusetts drivers license think that they are fully qualified to operate a vehicle in any conditions. Doesn't the fact that the state issued me with a license prove this? Unfortunately, it does not. At this stage your driving skills are very limited and you possess just some basic driving skills that allow you to control the vehicle if you are operating it in perfect or near-perfect conditions. If anything goes wrong or you are presented with a situation you have never been in before, you are highly likely to make a mistake. This is a very dangerous time for you as, according to the national stats, 20% of teenage drivers have a traffic accident during their first year of driving. This is where the Massachusetts graduated drivers license law steps in: it divides the licensing procedure into a few steps and allows you to gain driving experience gradually.
Surely, lack of driving experience is a risk factor, but how come the crash rates for newly licensed drivers under the age of 20 and over the age of 20 are not the same? They have the same number of driving hours behind their belts, so shouldn't they face the same risks? The reason why younger drivers have more traffic accidents is because they frequently fail to predict the consequences of their actions. Older drivers take active steps to avoid possible accidents - they drive at lower speed, keep longer distances from other vehicles and employ other accident avoidance techniques. Teenage drivers frequently overestimate their driving skills and combined with the complete absence of driving experience, this can lead to a disaster. Once again, correcting this is a job for the MA graduated driver license program and this is the reason why it only applies to teen drivers only.
Massachusetts graduated drivers license laws were designed for correcting these behavioral risk factors and this is achieved in a number of ways: introduction of additional Massachusetts learners permit restrictions, mandatory drivers education classes that include both classroom and behind the wheel hours and multiple licensing stages.
Massachusetts Graduated License Stages
In order to ensure that teens don't rush through the licensing procedure and have enough time to gain the required skills, the licensing procedure is divided into a number of separate steps or levels. Each step of the process has its own restrictions and requirements and as the applicants proceeds through these graduated license stages, new experience and skills are gained. Once the applicant meets all license requirements, he or she is granted with a full drivers license. At the moment, the Massachusetts graduated license program contains the following stages:
- Learners permit
- Junior operator license
- Full drivers license
You have to keep in mind that Massachusetts graduated drivers license rules apply only to drivers who are under 18 years of age. If you are already older than 18, you can follow a simplified application procedure.
Massachusetts Drivers Permit
The first step of the process is applying for a learners permit. The minimum age for obtaining a permit is 16. If you are of this age, you may visit one of the RMV offices and take a Massachusetts permit test. The learners permit test has 25 multiple choice questions and you will need to answer at least 18 questions correctly. If you want to see what kind of questions will be on the test, you may take a free Massachusetts practice permit test that will show you where you stand in terms of driving rules right now. Tired of taking the same practice test over and over again? No worries, here is another Massachusetts RMV practice test and the MA drivers license practice test you can take as well, both of them are free and can be taken as many times as you desire!
Once you successfully pass the permit exam and get your learners permit, you can start practicing your driving skills. According to the current MA graduated driver's license program, the learners permit must be held for at least six months before you can take your Massachusetts drivers test and get your drivers license. If your permit is suspended or canceled during this time, the waiting period is restarted, so you will need to wait for another 6 months from the date of reinstatement.
During the six months period, you must complete a Massachusetts drivers education program. A state approved class has 30 hours of classroom time, 12 hours of driving behind the wheel and 6 hours of in car observation. In addition to the drivers education class, the applicant must also complete at least 40 hours of supervised driving hours with a parent or legal guardian. Parents must also participate in at least two hours of the drivers education program unless they have already participated in the class within the last five years.
While you drive on your Massachusetts drivers permit, you must observe the following GDL restrictions:
- No driving alone. You have to have another driver who is at least 21 years old, holds a valid drivers license and has at least one year of driving experience supervising you during the driving lessons.
- Curfew. You cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless the supervising driver is your parent or legal guardian.
Once you have held your learners permit for at least six months and competed the requirements of this stage, you can schedule a drivers test and get your junior drivers license.
Massachusetts Junior Drivers License
According to the Mass graduated drivers license law, license applicants who apply for a drivers license before they turn 18 years of age are issued with a Massachusetts junior drivers license. The license allows you to drive without a supervising driver, provided you observe the following restrictions:
- Passenger restrictions. You can't have any passengers under the age of 18 present in the vehicle, unless they are members of your immediate family or you have a supervising driver who is at least 21 years of age and has at least one year of driving experience present.
- Curfew. No driving between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
These restrictions are removed from your license if you keep a clean driving record for the following six months. If you are caught breaking these rules, you will have to pay the fine as appointed by the court. In addition to that, you junior license will be suspended for a period between 60 days to a year. You can read more about the possible penalties in the Massachusetts drivers manual.
Once the Massachusetts graduated drivers license requirements are met, the license can be upgraded to a full unrestricted driver license.