Driving in New England
Be aware that to rent a vehicle, you must have a credit card, and it must match your driver’s license. If you are visiting Boston, we recommend that you rent a car after your visit. If you go back to the airport to pick up your vehicle, it’s an easy drive to quickly get north, south, or west of the city. If you are entering or leaving Boston and using a GPS, be sure to have it activated for toll roads; otherwise you will get diverted through the city.
Although most traffic laws are the same throughout the region, there are variations state by state. So, if you are renting a car or an RV (motor home), check with the agent to see if there are any rules covering you and/or your passengers that are specific to the states you are visiting.
65 mph (that’s about 105 kmph) is the maximum speed limit in most states, unless marked otherwise on signs. Police use radar to enforce the speed limits.
Many states have enacted ‘move over laws,’ requiring drivers to slow down and, if safe, to move out of the lane that is nearest to fire, rescue or police vehicles that are stopped by the roadside with their lights flashing.
Speed limits are lowered dramatically near schools; a flashing sign usually warns you of this. If you see a school bus that has stopped and is flashing its lights, cars MUST stop in both directions.
Drinking & Driving
It is illegal to drink alcohol and then drive. The penalties are severe.
The minimum age for driving (full license) varies from 16-18. Car rental firms usually stipulate a minimum age of 25; a few rent to younger drivers, but charge a premium. Older drivers (over 70) can also be subject to scrutiny.
In most New England states, the driver and all passengers, including back seat passengers, must always wear seat belts. Young children (usually under 8 years, or shorter than 57 inches/145cm, or weighing less than 40 pounds) are required to sit in special child restraint seats. Read information on individual state requirements.
In most New England states, it is illegal to text on your cell/mobile phone while driving.
Highways & Byways
Compared with most of the United States, distances between points of interest and attractions, beaches and mountains, cities and state parks are relatively short. The main interstate highways are as follows.
- I-95 follows the coast from New York City to Portland, Maine, where it heads inland.
- I-91 runs south-north through western New England for 290 miles (467 km), following the Connecticut River and its valley and into northern Vermont.
- Route 7 travels along the western border of Vermont and I-89 connects the eastern towns and cities to Burlington in the west.
- I-90 runs east-west in Massachusetts. Officially the Massachusetts Turnpike, this toll road is known to locals as “the Mass Pike” or even “the Pike.” Easily accessible from Boston’s Logan International Airport, it dips down through the southern part of the state, past Old Sturbridge Village and Springfield, on its way to the Berkshire Hills.
- Route 2 is the northerly route from Boston to the Berkshires. Its western leg is the scenic Mohawk Trail.
- From Boston, the main highways look like the spokes on a wheel. I-95 North leads to New Hampshire and Maine. I-93 North goes to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into Vermont via I-89. Route 2 and I-90 (see above) go west to the Berkshire Hills, Massachusetts. I-95 South leads to Providence, Rhode Island, and on to New York City. Route 3 South is the main connection to Cape Cod.
- Circling Boston are two beltways. I-495 (the outer ring) and I-95 (the inner beltway).
Tips: if you are in Boston and the weather for the weekend or a holiday looks good, be warned. Bostonians leave the city as early as Friday lunchtime and the traffic carries on into the evening. Getting on to Cape Cod (and off at the end of the weekend) has long been difficult, but improvements to the bridges are helping to ease congestion.