Rhode Island Traffic Laws (10+ Laws You Need to Know About)

Rhode Island Traffic Laws (10+ Laws You Need to Know About)

Getting an RI driver’s license is the beginning of a great adventure!

But never forget that there are laws to follow. 

So whether you’re a new driver — or someone that wants to refresh your traffic law memory — this article is a MUST read. 

Here, we’ll mention 10+ Rhode Island traffic laws that every driver should know and obey. 

These are:

  • Seatbelt law
  • Car seat law
  • Parking law
  • Passing law
  • Speed limits
  • Cell phone law
  • Motorcycle law
  • School bus law
  • Car accident law
  • And more!

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!

Rhode Island Seat Belt Law

The seat belt law is very straightforward.

The driver and all passengers above 8 years old are REQUIRED to PROPERLY wear a seat belt in a moving vehicle. 

Yes, this means ALL passengers — whether they sit in the front or back. 

Another thing. 

Rhode Island’s seat belt law has primary enforcement. 

You can get pulled over and given a ticket for no other reason than someone not wearing a seat belt.

A ticket will lead to a $40 fine per unrestrained person — and it applies whether the one unbuckled is you or one of your passengers.

Rhode Island Car Seat Laws

What about those under 8 years old?

This is where the car seat laws apply. 

In Rhode Island, all children must use a child restraint system if they are:

  • Younger than 8 years old
  • Shorter than 57 inches (4 feet and a half)
  • Weigh less than 80 pounds

What’s more, children that use a car seat or booster seat should always be placed at the back. 

Now, what type of child restraint system should you use?

We go into detail here. 

Just like the seat belt law, this is primary enforcement. 

A violation of Rhode Island’s car seat laws results in a mandatory court appearance, including the fees that come with that. 

If the child is seated at the front, the fine will be $85. 

Rhode Island Parking Laws

In Rhode Island, it is illegal to park in these areas: 

  • The part of the highway used for traveling.
  • The space beside a stopped or parked motor vehicle at the side of a street (referred to as double parking).
  • On a sidewalk, bridge, tunnel, or railroad track.
  • Within an intersection.
  • In front of a driveway.
  • Areas near roadwork where you’ll block traffic.
  • Areas with no parking signs posted.
  • Within 8 feet of a fire hydrant.
  • Within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection.
  • Within 30 feet of a flashing red or yellow light, a stop sign, or a traffic light.
  • Within 20 feet of the driveway of a fire station.
  • Within 75 feet of a fire station’s driveway across the street.
  • Within 50 feet of the nearest rail or a railroad crossing.
  • In a disabled parking space and you don’t have a permit.

Parking in spaces where it’s prohibited means an $85 fine. 

But if you park in a disabled parking space when you aren’t eligible, the amount is higher:

  • First offense: $100
  • Second offense: $175

Rhode Island Passing Law

By RI law, you must always pass another vehicle on the left side. 

The only exceptions are in these situations:

  • The vehicle ahead is about to or is making a left turn.
  • You’re on a street or highway with two or more lanes (there must be no obstructions, and parking vehicles are not occupying it)
  • You’re on a one-way street wide enough for two or more lanes of traffic and are free of obstructions and parked vehicles.

What’s more, you should never pass:

  • If you have to drive off the paved road
  • On a hill or curve
  • At a railroad crossing or intersection
  • If there is a no-passing sign
  • If the pavement markings are solid lines
  • When you’re entering a tunnel or bridge

Improper passing or passing where it’s prohibited results in a $75 fine.

Rhode Island Speed Limits

In general, the speed limits in Rhode Island are:

  • Rural interstates: 65 mph
  • Urban interstates: 55 mph
  • Other limited access roads: 55 mph
  • Residential areas: 25 mph

Of course, if the posted speed limit says otherwise, you must follow that instead. 

Rhode Island also has a Basic Speed Law.

This states that you can only drive at a speed safe for certain road conditions. 

So, if it’s raining or snowing, you have to slow down and avoid reaching the allowable speed limit. 

The penalties for speeding in Rhode Island are hefty. 

If you exceed speed limits by 1 to 10 mph, you must pay $85. 

However, exceeding the limit by 11 mph or more results in a $195 fine (minimum). 

You’ll also get a $10 penalty for every mile in excess.

Rhode Island Cell Phone Laws

Rhode Island’s Cell Phone Law has two parts.

The first is for all drivers under 18 years old. 

You cannot use a mobile phone while driving, even if it’s hand-free. 

The fines for violating this law are as follows:

  • First offense: $50
  • Second offense: $50
  • Third offense: $100 (and you lose your driving privileges until you turn 18)

The second part focuses specifically on texting — which remains one of the biggest distractions for drivers.

Regardless of age, all drivers cannot write, read, or send text messages while driving. 

But drivers above 18 years old are allowed to use their phones with hands-free devices. 

Now, texting and driving comes with the following fines:

  • First offense: $85
  • Second offense: $100
  • Third offense: $125

Rhode Island Motorcycle Laws

Let’s say you drive a motorcycle. 

You will have to obey these Rhode Island motorcycle laws:

  • Everyone riding a motorcycle must wear a helmet — and this law extends to your passengers.
  •  Drivers who are under 21 must wear a certified helmet. The same applies to everyone who received their motorcycle endorsement within the last year, regardless of age.
  • All drivers must also wear eye protection to avoid dirt and dust getting into their eyes and causing imbalance or distraction. 

If a law enforcement officer catches you without the mandatory gear, that will be an $85 fine.

Rhode Island School Bus Law

If a school bus flashes red lights and/or has a STOP sign, all vehicles are REQUIRED to stop.

Yes, that’s whether you are traveling in the same or opposite direction as the school bus. 

This is to make sure it’s safe for the children to cross the road if needed. 

And yes, this law applies on public highways, private streets, or parking lots. 

Now, once the school bus turns off the light, redraws the STOP sign, and starts moving — you can continue forward. 

Failing to obey this law will result in a $300 fine and a 30-day license suspension. 

Okay, okay. 

The only time you’re not required to stop is if you’re driving in the opposite direction as the school bus and there is a median between lanes. 

Rhode Island Car Accident Laws

Getting into an accident is no joke — and the stress may make you lose your composure. 

No matter what, always obey these laws…

  • You must report all collisions to the nearest state or local police. 
  • You should NEVER leave the scene of an accident — a hit and run can cause you thousands of dollars in fines, plus a felony charge.
  • If you hit a parked vehicle, leave your name and address so the owner can contact you later. In some cases, you must file a police report. 

Rhode Island Vehicle Laws

It’s not just your driving skills that keep you safe on the road.

Your vehicle’s conditions play a significant role, too.

So ensure that your car’s equipment meets the following requirements:

  • Tires: must have more than 3/32 inches of tread and should not be mixed and matched. Ensure it has the appropriate air pressure.
  • Airbags: Keep at least 10 inches of space between your breastbone and the airbag cover to ensure you’re safe if it deploys.
  • Brakes: Must be kept in running condition — don’t wait for your brake pedal to reach the floor before having it checked out.
  • Steering: Your steering wheel should not feel loose or make a noise when you turn it.
  • Lights: Ensure your headlights, taillights, directional brake, backup, running, and parking lights are working. This also includes the light on your instrument panel.

Besides those mentioned above, ensure your vehicle’s horn, mirrors, muffler, and wipers are in good working condition.

Other Rhode Island Traffic Laws

Although we’ve covered a lot of ground, some laws don’t fall into the sections above. 

So here are other Rhode Island traffic laws to keep in mind: 

  • You can turn right at a red signal if you’ve made a complete stop and there is no “no turn on red signal” sign.
  • If you’re shifting lanes or turning, use your signal lights at least 100 feet before doing it.
  • Vehicles from different directions that arrive at an intersection simultaneously must wait for their turn before entering. Those on the left must yield the right of way to drivers on the right.
  • You must turn on your headlights after sunset. It also applies if you cannot see more than 500 feet ahead of you due to road or weather conditions.
  • You must always carry proof of insurance when driving (there is a $500 fine if you don’t).
  • It is illegal to litter on public or private roadways. 
  • You cannot wear earphones or headsets while driving.
  • If a law enforcement officer pulls you over, keep your interior lights on and present your driver’s license and registration.
  • You can have tinted windows, but these must allow 70% of light to pass through.
  • Your vehicle cannot emit noise of more than 86 decibels in areas with speed limits of 35 mph or less. For places with higher speed limits, the threshold is 90 decibels.

The Wrap Up


That was a lot!

Holding a RI driver’s license sure comes with great responsibility. 

So if you want to avoid the penalties —- or just be a better and safer driver — you should obey these Rhode Island traffic laws. 

We hope that this has helped you greatly!

Drive safe!

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