Local leaders explain extent of Mass. teen driving laws

Western Mass News is checking in with a local attorney to find out what laws are in place for teen drivers who just obtained their license.
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT
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BRIMFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is checking in with a local attorney to find out what laws are in place for teen drivers who just obtained their license. This comes just days after a fatal crash in Brimfield killed three teenagers and seriously injured a fourth.

“Junior operators have a very specific set of rules that they have to follow for the first 6 months of having their license, and in Massachusetts, it’s pretty strenuous,” attorney Joseph Pacella told us.

Pacella said that a junior license is the license drivers first receive after passing their road test, typically ages for ages 16½ - 18.

“A junior operator can’t have someone under 18 in their car, expect for siblings,” Pacella said. “There’s an exception unless they have a 21-year-old with a year of valid driving and a license under their belt.”

We asked Pacella what restrictions are in place for these drivers following two separate car accidents that have happened recently that have claimed the lives of teens in Brimfield on Sunday and in Longmeadow this past May. He told us there is a strict curfew restriction for teen drivers in Massachusetts..

“They have to be in by 12:30 to 5 a.m., unless you have a parent or legal guardian past those hours with you,” he told us. “So again, with a valid license and a years experience, so they want them in at night because that’s when trouble happens.”

Pacella said those with a junior license must also wait 6 months until driving friends and no longer have to follow the curfew law a year after obtaining the license. We asked Pacella who is liable if teens do not follow these rules.

“No matter what you do, it seems, other than maybe a simple violation, you are going to lose your license, have to retest, have to pay a lot of money, and it’s rough,” he said.

State Senator Michael Moore, a chair of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, also weighed in on teen driving laws in the Bay State.

“Our laws in Massachusetts are very comprehensive,” Senator Moore told us. “You want to call it comprehensive or restrictive, I think they are. I think we could always do better at providing more educational opportunities.”

We asked Senator Moore when the laws were last updated in the state and he said it was before his term 12 years ago, but he is continuing to push for improvements.

“There’s always going to be a circumstance that may come up that, when we sit back and get a chance to review the laws, that we could always make adjustments to the laws. But the sad part, until they come up, we really don’t know or have the data to support those changes,” he told us. “We have to be proactive in education, but we also need to vigilant in making sure we have laws in place that are going to protect the occupants if something were to happen.”

Senator Moore added that he believes it is imperative to keep promoting teen driving safety through public awareness campaigns throughout the state.