Can I Drive It Home... With One Misaligned Headlight?
January 6, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Am I legally allowed to drive my collision damaged, but drivable car in MA?

I was involved in an auto accident in Massachusetts yesterday, and significant damage occurred to the drivers side headlight area (broken/twisted plastic & bent metal, drivers side front quarter panel buckled, etc..) The car still drives as smoothly as it did before the accident, however, and I was able to drive the car home with no problems. In addition the turn signal light still illuminates as does the headlight (although the housing for the latter is completely ruined and the headlight is thus not properly aligned.) Before I bring the car to the auto body shop for repair, however, I have to wait for an appraiser to come out and inspect the damage, and I was told by my insurance company that this could be up to a four day wait. I'm wondering if I'm legally allowed to drive the car during this time, or if I risk getting pulled over by a traffic cop (driving would only be done in the daytime and if it were light enough out that headlights weren't necessary.) I can't find anything on the Mass RMV site either way, and trying to Google for this information seems to only yield results for law firms and used car sales.

I understand that you are not my lawyer and any answer you provide is not legal advice. Thanks in advance!
posted by Rewind to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As long as all the lights/brakes etc work as they should, "technincally" it sound like you are OK, although you might gain the unwanted attention of any bored cop.
posted by timsteil at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2012

In theory, you could be pulled over. If it rains/snows and you need to use that headlight, your car isn't safe/roadworthy (you might be blinding other drivers, or your lights might not be illuminating the road in front of you.

In reality, given the cars I've seen on the road in Massachusetts ...
posted by zippy at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2012

I live in MA and based on past experience I would say you have leeway, although according to a strict interpretation of the law you could get a ticket.

Here is my experience, fwiw:

I had a car that flunked the state inspection. Although I had 30 days to get it reinspected, in MA, this technically puts the car in an "unsafe" category and a hardass police officer could write you a ticket for driving it around. (According to the strict interpretation, I guess you are supposed to drive it immediately home or to a repair station and get it towed if you have to move it.)

In the real world, however, I got pulled over and showed the police officer the paperwork. As soon as he saw it, he waved me off, and let me go without a comment.

So the way I see it, your car is not in inspect-able shape and so you are in a similar situation. It comes down to how lenient any officer feels like being that day.
posted by jeremias at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Four days? I would wait it out if I were you (FWIW, I'm in MA). You'll have enough on your hands dealing with the insurance claim; you don't need police attention (or worrying about possible police attention) on top of that.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:37 AM on January 6, 2012

The headlight bulb may burn out in short order. Halogen capsules don't like dirt on the glass.
posted by narcoleptic at 10:15 AM on January 6, 2012

Who is your insurance company? Mine (Amica) had a list of approved appraisers, and there was one nearby I drove to and they inspected it while I waited. I wasn't given an appraisal immediately, but it sped up the process.

You could print out a list and if you're near one give them a call (simply having the list in your car might give you a plausible excuse for driving if pulled over, not that I'm suggesting that).

How old is your car? The damage sounds like it might be totaled if it's not a fairly new car.
posted by justkevin at 10:28 AM on January 6, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers thus far.

justkevin: My insurance company is USAA and as far as I know they don't have a list of approved appraisers for MA. I specifically asked if I could drive my car to one rather than have them come to me and they told me "that wasn't an option in Massachusetts." I'm fairly certain, however, that she was referring to USAA policy and not all Massachusetts insurers in general (I remember driving to an appraiser when I was previously insured with Commerce, for example.) The car is 11 months old so I'm really hoping it's not totaled.
posted by Rewind at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2012

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