Motor Vehicle Law




Motor vehicle law covers all the aspects of registering and titling motor vehicles, and licensing drivers. It also covers highway, driver and vehicle safety laws. The associated laws and regulations are governed by both Federal and individual State laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, such as regulating fuel economy standards. NHTSA also conducts local highway safety programs. The Federal Highway Administration, also under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Transportation, administers federal highway programs in partnership with state and local agencies, to promote highway safety and technological excellence.

Although motor vehicle laws vary from state to state, there are some basic doctrines that are enforced nationwide: most motor vehicles may not be driven legally if they have never been registered with the state of residence’s department of motor vehicles, or if the registration has expired; and in order to operate a motor vehicle, there must be some form of licensing of the driver.

The practice of Motor Vehicle Law includes addressing traffic violations while operating a motor vehicle, such as speeding, careless driving, or driving under a suspended license. These violations are criminal offenses and are categorized as either Petty Offenses, Misdemeanors, or Felonies. DUI/DWI Law is a branch of this area of law.

To consult Transportation laws and regulations in your State visit our Department of Transportation by State page.

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Know Your Rights!

  • Are Self-Driving Cars Legal?

    A number of states have taken interest in this technology and have passed legislation approving the deployment of self-driving vehicles to their roads. So what are these laws? What do they allow or prohibit? Which states currently authorize self-driving vehicles?

  • How to Fight a Traffic Ticket

    You have been pulled over but you are not sure why. You do not think you did anything wrong, but you get a ticket anyway. How do you fight it?

  • In a Rear End Collision, Is the Guy in the Back Always at Fault?

    Being in any accident can be a nightmare, but when you are the driver of a vehicle that collided with another from the rear, it can be particularly troubling. Conventional wisdom will usually tell you that the driver in the back is always at fault, and in most instances this will be true, but not all.

  • Is It Legal to Hitchhike?

    So, is it legal to hitchhike? As with many laws, the answer depends on the jurisdiction. There is no federal law regarding hitchhiking. However, each state has its own laws regarding hitching rides.

  • Is It Legal to Leave a Car Running Unattended?

    Whenever cold weather approaches, there is an increase in the number of people who leave their cars running unattended in an effort to warm them up before driving anywhere. While this might be good for the engine and make for a toasty commute, it may not always be legal.

  • My Car is a Lemon: Now What?

    When a car dealer sells you a lemon, how can you get to the “lemonade” of a properly functioning car and possibly even receiving a cash settlement?

  • Single-Vehicle Accidents

    Any car accident can be scary, embarrassing, and financially draining. But, those sensations can be greatly enhanced when the accident involves only one vehicle. Obviously, factors like road conditions, hidden obstacles, and weather conditions can adversely affect one's ability to control a vehicle and can result in an accident. So who will be liable?

  • What Makes for a Street Legal Vehicle?

    What is required for a vehicle to be considered “street legal?” Generally, “street legal” means having whatever equipment or features the law would require to allow one to operate it legally on the roads at any time and without restriction.

Articles on HG.org Related to Motor Vehicle Law

  • Challenges of Winter Driving in Rhode Island
    Winter driving can be extremely difficult, especially here in Rhode Island. Our proximity to the ocean constantly opens up the possibility of huge storms, blizzards and nor'easters. This closeness also influences frequent temperature changes with many freeze-thaw cycles throughout the winter months. Such a weather pattern makes roads slippery and riddled with potholes, contributing to more treacherous conditions for drivers.
  • Factors a Car Accident Lawyer Looks For to Determine the Winnability of a Case
    Car accidents are generally scary and stressful situations to find yourself in, no matter how major or minor they might be. However, when you also have to worry about recouping costs for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and anything else you owe as a result, it makes the hardship much more difficult to manage on your own. That’s where the knowledge and assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer really comes in handy.
  • Tarrant County Traffic Tickets Disputed in Court
    Every day in Tarrant County, Texas, traffic tickets are written to drivers who are caught violating traffic law, including by speeding. Whether you hold a Class C driver's license or CDL, if you have been issued a traffic citation by police, you must either challenge your violation or plead guilty to it by the date it is due. A traffic ticket lawyer may help you dispute your ticket, but a warrant may be issued for you if you instead allow it to go past due.
  • Understanding Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage for Car Accidents
    An uninsured motorist is a driver who does not have a valid auto insurance policy. Under Rhode Island law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle without auto insurance.
  • 5 First Steps to Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
    Suffering a personal injury can be scary, but it is always important to try and keep calm. The steps you take following a personal injury can affect the amount of compensation that you will get after filling a personal injury claim.
  • 5 Ways to Avoid Becoming the Victim of Curbstoning in an Auto Sale
    Most lemon laws apply to dealers only, not to private sellers. Because of this some unscrupulous dealers attempt to sidestep the laws altogether by using a system called curbstoning.
  • Providence Rated Among Top Five U.S. Cities with Worst Drivers
    Recently, a report released by Allstate Insurance listed the city of Providence, Rhode Island, as the fifth worst city in the United States when it comes to the worst drivers.
  • DWI and DUI Charges in Tarrant County, Texas
    In Tarrant County, Texas, if you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence, consequences may be severe, and are not limited to arrest, DL suspension, and high State Surcharges. A local DWI criminal defense attorney may be able to help you avoid serious penalties associated with such charges, by pleading your case for a deal or by taking your case to trial at the Tarrant County Justice Court.
  • When Drivers Are Negligent Towards Motorcyclists
    The vast majority of motorcycle accidents involve collisions with other vehicles. Motorcycle accidents are the most dangerous because they involve a much higher risk of serious injuries or fatalities. Head-on motorcycle-car accidents often result in fatal injury to the motorcyclist. Often, those accidents are caused because of a motorist's failure to notice a motorcyclist, yield to a motorcyclist and other forms of negligence.
  • 3 Excuses Insurance Companies Use to Deny a Car Accident Claim
    Insurance companies often deny personal injury claims with excuses that include denying fault, denying the extent of the injury, and denying causation.
  • All Motor Vehicle Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Motor Vehicles Law including: auto dealer fraud, automobile accidents, automotive, bus accidents, lemon law, motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accident, railroad accidents, rollover accident, traffic violations, trucking accident.

Department of Motor Vehicles by State

Motor Vehicle Law - US

  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

    The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with field offices across the United States.

  • Federal Transit Administration

    FTA is one of 11 operating administrations within the U.S. Department of Transportation with over 500 employees located in Washington, DC and 10 regional offices across the nation. As authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users of 2005 (SAFETEA-LU), the FTA provides stewardship of combined formula and discretionary programs totaling more than $10B to support a variety of locally planned, constructed, and operated public transportation systems throughout the United States. Transportation systems typically include buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, monorail, passenger ferry boats, inclined railways, or people movers.

  • FHWA Office of International Programs (OIP)

    OIP programs reflect the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) international objectives, which reinforce U.S. foreign policy objectives and promote the physical and economic well–being of U.S. businesses and citizens abroad and at home.

  • Highways and Motor Vehicles Law - Overview

    Both state and federal highway law exists, but emphasis should be placed on local rules and regulations. Typically, in most jurisdictions, highway officers are personally liable for injuries to persons or property resulting from acts of their negligence in connection with the construction and repair of highways, streets and bridges, but there is some authority to the contrary.

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

    NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 to carry out safety programs previously administered by the National Highway Safety Bureau. Specifically, the agency directs the highway safety and consumer programs established by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, the Highway Safety Act of 1966, the 1972 Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, and succeeding amendments to these laws. Dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety, NHTSA works daily to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial. The agency strives to exceed the expectations of its customers through its core values of Integrity, Service, and Leadership.

  • Title 49, United States Code - Chapter 301 Motor Vehicle Safety

    The purpose of this chapter is to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents. Therefore it is necessary 1. to prescribe motor vehicle safety standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment in interstate commerce; and 2. to carry out needed safety research and development.

  • United States Department of Transportation

    The mission of the Department is to: Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. Statutory Authority: The Department of Transportation was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966. The Department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967.

Motor Vehicle Law - Europe

  • European Automotive Legislation

    Within the countries of Europe, as defined by the political institution The European Union (EU), motor vehicles are subject to directives in EU law. Directives are conceived, approved and enforced by the European Commission which is the legislative body of the EU.

  • European Union Transportation Legislation

    Transport is one of the Community's foremost common policies. It is governed by Title V (Articles 70 to 80) of the Treaty establishing the European Community. Since the Rome Treaty's entry into force in 1958, this policy has been focused on eliminating borders between Member States and to therefore contribute to the free movement of individuals and of goods. Its principal aims are to complete the internal market, ensure sustainable development, extend transport networks throughout Europe, maximise use of space, enhance safety and promote international cooperation. The Single Market signalled a veritable turning point in the common policy in the area of transport.

Motor Vehicle Law - International

  • Australian Road and Traffic Authority

    The RTA is the NSW State Government agency responsible for: * Improving road safety. * Testing and licensing drivers and registering and inspecting vehicles. * Managing the road network to achieve consistent travel times.

  • International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP)

    IMVP is the oldest and largest international research consortium aimed at understanding the challenges facing the global automotive industry. IMVP, founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979, has mapped lean methodologies, established benchmarking standards, and probed the entire automotive value chain. The program's data-driven methods set the standard for industry research.

  • Transport Canada Acts and Regulations - Canada

    Transport Canada has the responsibility and authority to propose and enforce laws and regulations to ensure safe, secure, efficient and clean transportation.

Organizations Related to Motor Vehicle Law

  • Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan

    The Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan is a program where disputes between consumers and vehicle manufacturers about alleged manufacturing defects or implementation of the manufacturers' new vehicle warranty can be put before a neutral third party (arbitrator) for resolution.

  • International Motor Vehicle Inspection Committee (CITA)

    The CITA website aims to provide information to current CITA members but also to organisations and individuals, interested in the benefits of a CITA membership and its work on mandatory vehicle inspection. This website not only provides information about CITA and how it operates but also on its worldwide membership, events and the output and result of its work. The website is accessible to the public or anyone interested in CITA.

  • International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA)

    The general purposes of the organization are to defend the interests of the vehicle manufacturers, assemblers and importers grouped within their national federation and, in particular : * Link the national automobile associations, * Study issues of mutual interest relating to the development and future of the automobile industry, * Collect and circulate useful information among member associations, * Establish policies and positions on issues of mutual interest to the members, * Represent the automobile industry at the international level, in particular with intergovernmental and international bodies, * Disseminate and promote industry policies and positions among international bodies and the general public.

  • UK - Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association (MVDA)

    Formed in 1943, the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association is the Trade Association representing the interests of some 200 plus vehicle dismantlers and their customers throughout the UK. The Association's roll is to promote the interests of it's members and those of the motoring public whilst at the same time ensuring protection of the environment.

Publications Related to Motor Vehicle Law

  • CDC - Motor Vehicle Safety

    In the United States, motor vehicle–related injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1–34, and nearly 5 million people sustain injuries that require an emergency department visit. The economic impact is also notable: motor vehicle crashes cost around $230 billion in 2000.

  • DOT - Briefing Room

    Presented here are the latest news and updates from the Department of Transporation.

  • Transportation and Climate

    EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are taking the next steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel efficiency from on-road vehicles and engines. These next steps include developing first-ever GHG regulations for heavy-duty engines and vehicles, as well as further light-duty vehicle GHG regulations. These steps were outlined by President Obama in a memorandum on May 21, 2010.


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