The relationship between state and motorist lies somewhere on the scale between 'to protect and serve' and 'command and control.' It depends greatly on how the fuel tax, tolls, and other user fees are collected, how fines are levied, and the degree to which that revenue is used to maintain and improve public roadways as opposed to being diverted for use on unrelated projects.
Because states view drivers' rights with varying degrees of indifference, we decided to quantify what distinguishes each of the states in their treatment of motorists. Click here for a brief description of the five evaluation categories and the metrics that were considered in the NMA rankings. Numeric-based metrics were normalized by state-specific factors such as annual vehicle miles traveled (as published by NHTSA), total lane miles, and population density so that the states could be compared on a common scale.
Overall Score 0 to 100
(0 being worst)
State-Imposed Cost to Drive
State Fiscal Responsibility
|District of Columbia||25||0||7||4||9||5|
Legal Protections: Measures the degree to which motorists receive fair treatment within the traffic justice system based on constitutional due process rights. Are traffic cases heard in real courts of justice as opposed to administrative hearings? Do defendants have the right of discovery? Is trial by jury available? Trial by declaration? Does the state define ownership rights of vehicle electronic data recorder information?
Regulations: Measures whether traffic laws are based on sensible standards that differentiate between responsible driver behavior and demonstrated unsafe behavior. Does the state have realistic speed limits? Is there secondary or primary enforcement of seat belt laws? Are motorcycle helmet laws based on adult choice? What are the restrictions for non-texting, hand-held use of cell phones? What are the license suspension penalties for first-time DUI offenders? Does the state have unreasonable "driver responsibility" or "super speeder" penalties?
Enforcement Tactics: Measures the degree to which police use command and control tactics intended more to generate revenue than to enhance public safety. What is the extent of speed traps, roadblocks, red-light cameras, speed cameras, and federally funded ticket blitzes? Is the annual volume of traffic tickets reasonable? Are work-zone speed limits and penalties dependent on workers being present?
State-Imposed Cost to Drive: Measures the extent that motorists are compelled to pay for the privilege of accessing public roadways. Is there a minimal use of toll roads? What is the cost to drive in the state based on revenue collected from tolls, state fuel tax, and vehicle-related surcharges? What is the cost of auto insurance in the state?
State Fiscal Responsibility: Measures how effectively a state uses revenue generated from motorists for the sole purpose of maintaining and improving public roadways. To what degree is transportation planning and funding a political process? How much are highway funds restricted to road/bridge maintenance and construction? How much federal aid is applied to highway projects as opposed to being diverted to transit projects?