Motor Vehicle Law



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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

  • What You Need to Know about Driving in Construction Zones
    Not only do spring and summer mean warmer temperatures, but they also mean road construction. In fact, there are already a number of major road construction projects under way on Chicago area highways and roadways, including portions of I-90 on the Jane Adams Expressway and the Kennedy Expressway.
  • Citywide Celebrations Lead to Deadly Car Accidents
    Large, citywide festivals can bring communities together, boost the economy by attracting tourists, and help define the character of the region. However, there’s also a dark side to these large-scale events: more people are drinking and deciding to drive once they leave the celebration. Drunk driving is wrong under any circumstances, but it’s especially dangerous when the intoxicated driver may not be familiar with the city and is driving through an area with crowds of cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Dangers of Social Media Use During a Car Accident Claim
    It may be tempting to tell everyone about the tragedy of your injuries on your Facebook account, but discussion of your car accident claim on social media could ruin your settlement. Before you tweet about your recovery progress or the severity of your injuries, take time to think about what the insurance company might think if an adjuster reads your social media posts.
  • NTSB Recommends Two New Trucking Safety Standards
    Truck underride accidents, those accidents that happen when a vehicle collides with a truck and slides underneath it, kill hundreds of people each year. While there are certain safety mechanisms in place to prevent underride accidents, data shows that they are often ineffective.
  • Motorcycle Safety Tips for Riding in Texas
    Motorcycle safety begins with you, the rider. While you can't always account for others’ negligence, you can take some steps to improve your own personal safety and reduce the risk injury in a serious or fatal crash.
  • The Colorado Ignition Interlock Program As Of January 1, 2014
    The law in Colorado offers an incentive to certain drivers who have been determined by the Colorado Department of Revenue to have been driving under the influence of alcohol, with a test revealing a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher at the time of the offense, to receive an early reinstatement of their driver’s license when they agree to install an “ignition interlock device” on their vehicle.
  • Suspension of a Colorado Driver’s License After a DUI
    Under Colorado law, driving a motor vehicle is considered a privilege and not a right. This means an individual’s privilege to drive may be taken away for a period of time by the Colorado Department of Revenue – Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) through an administrative determination.
  • Should Auto Makers Be Subject to Stricter Auto Defect Laws?
    General Motors has recently come under fire for its spate of auto recalls. Just last week it announced that it is recalling 1.5 million vehicles worldwide due to a defect with the cars’ electronic power-steering assist, which can suddenly stop working and make the car harder to steer. This most recent recall brings the total vehicles GM has recalled since February up to a staggering 6.3 million vehicles.
  • Do Rear Visibility Systems Prevent Auto Accidents?
    In an effort to reduce the amount of backover fatalities and injuries, all new cars will be required to have rear visibility technology by May 2018. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the required rear visibility systems must expand the field of vision to include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle, as well as meet other requirements regarding image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.
  • 5 Motorcycle Safety Tips
    Although motorcycle accidents are less common than auto accidents, they are considerably more severe. Motorcyclists are not covered by the same protective barriers as cars and other passenger vehicles, making motorcycle accidents more likely to result in serious injuries or death than car accidents.
  • 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.

  • Road Traffic Act 1988 - United Kingdom

    An Act to consolidate certain enactments relating to road traffic with amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission.

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.