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Motorists Beware: Ranking the States that Treat You Worst

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.

Click any column header to sort ascending/descendingMay 2014
State
Overall Score 0 to 100
(0 being worst)
Legal Protections
(20 pts)
Regulations
(20 pts)
Enforcement Tactics
(30 pts)
State-Imposed Cost to Drive
(15 pts)
State Fiscal Responsibility
(15 Pts)
District of Columbia2507495
New York32651047
Delaware3468929
New Jersey401391314
Vermont42371994
Maryland431311676
Illinois441451159
Florida455131638
Rhode Island453121578
Georgia491261489
Pennsylvania497131838
Hawaii501561478
West Virginia507424411
Alaska51862557
Oregon511131999
Washington531351979
Arizona5471016138
Massachusetts5411131848
California551581859
New Hampshire551372168
South Carolina551011111211
Colorado56131014811
Iowa56145151012
Kentucky561491779
New Mexico5771317128
Alabama58139161010
Texas5814131579
Virginia58151413106
Connecticut5913102097
Indiana60129181110
Michigan6081320811
North Carolina60111611139
Ohio61121216912
Louisiana6211171888
Maine6315161769
Arkansas64155221111
Missouri641411131313
Oklahoma64111522412
Minnesota65118241012
Tennessee65121716119
Idaho66138201213
Nebraska67137251012
Nevada671115211010
Kansas70111722812
South Dakota70319231015
Wisconsin7014927119
Mississippi741215231212
Montana74102027512
Utah761417241110
North Dakota78131728614
Wyoming851418281015

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?




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