Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Massachusetts?

No, we were unable to find any laws that prohibit drivers from changing lanes in an intersection in Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, it is generally considered a less than safe driving maneuver, and can still result in a ticket (on other grounds). 

In the article below, we go into greater detail for clarification purposes.

Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Massachusetts? (EXPLAINED)


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Where Are The Laws That I Can Look To In Order To Confirm Whether Lane Changes In An Intersection In This State Are Legal/Illegal?

We did not find statutes that make it illegal to perform lane changes in an intersection in Massachusetts. 

However, we found a few statutes relating to intersections, passing other drivers, and safe driving that is relevant. 

Safe driving in Massachusetts includes the expectation of keeping as far right as possible.

Here is an excerpt from Massachusetts State Law, Chapter 89, Section 8 relating to the right-of-way when approaching an intersection:

When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection of any ways, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, at approximately the same instant, the operator of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

Source: Massachusetts Driving Laws, Title XIV, Chapter 89, Section 8

Statutes also make mention of completing passage through an intersection, and not doing so if that’s likely to not be possible:

The driver of a motor vehicle shall not cross or enter an intersection, which it is unable to proceed through, without stopping and thereby blocking vehicles from travelling in a free direction.

Source: Massachusetts Driving Laws, Title XIV, Chapter 89, Section 9

A requirement for drivers to maintain a safe distance between vehicles, along with how and where to overtake another vehicle is covered in Chapter 89, Section 2:

…the driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction shall drive a safe distance to the left of such other vehicle and shall not return to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and, if the way is of sufficient width for the two vehicles to pass, the driver of the leading one shall not unnecessarily obstruct the other.

Source: Massachusetts Driving Laws, Title XIV, Chapter 89, Section 2

Also, overtaking maneuvers including the need to change lanes, is detailed here:

Upon all ways the driver of a vehicle shall drive in the lane nearest the right side of the way when such lane is available for travel, except when overtaking another vehicle or when preparing for a left turn.

Source: Massachusetts Driving Laws, Title XIV, Chapter 89, Section 4B

In some cases, a failure to adhere to driving laws, particularly regarding highways and intersections can result in driving fines up to $150 for each occurrence. 

Furthermore, mistakes made on the approach to an intersection, including at the entrance, when dealing with a one-way street, or traffic signals, may be subject to a fine of “not less than thirty-five dollars.”

Getting repeatedly ticketed by a law enforcement officer can add up quickly when failing to adhere to safe driving practices in Massachusetts. 

Why Do People Generally Think That It’s Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection?

Most drivers rarely observe another drivers changing lanes while driving through an intersection.

If this has been the case for years, it’s natural to logically assume that it’s because it is illegal to do so. 

The majority of states – with a few rare exceptions – do not make it illegal to change lanes in an intersection.

However, typically as we’ve indicated in the previous section, some statutes do legislate for safe driving practices, right-of-way, changing lanes, stopping for traffic signals and stop signs, etc. 

Also, extra concentration is needed when crossing an intersection with a steady flow of traffic moving in the same direction.

Attempting to change lanes while doing so increases the difficulty. It also stands to reason that other drivers won’t be expecting it, which is not a good thing. 

But If It Is Not Illegal In Massachusetts To Change Lanes In An Intersection, Why Did I Get A Ticket?

A ticket may be issued by a law enforcement officer for various reasons.

Here are a few of the issues that may have caught an officer’s attention:

  • Failing to signal or not signaling sufficiently before changing lanes, might have been less safe for other drivers at the intersection. 
  • An unexpected lane change confused drivers waiting to turn.
  • An insufficient distance was allowed, or inappropriate driving speed was adopted when performing the lane change/ overtaking maneuver safely.

In most cases, it is not the changing of lanes in an intersection that was illegal.

It is most likely related to other improper actions or errors of omission that resulted in a ticket. 

What Happens If A Car Accident Results?

A collision that happened while changing lanes brings into question whether the lane change directly contributed to it.

Furthermore, with damage to vehicles, or personal injury concerns at the scene, the legal situation/consequences can quickly become concerning.

At that stage, seeking the assistance and advice of a certified Massachusetts personal injury lawyer (or even a criminal defense lawyer) is warranted in case it turns into a more serious legal matter. 

Wrap Up

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Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Massachusetts