NMA E-Newsletter #278: Which States Exploit Motorists the Most?

We are putting the finishing touches on “Motorists Beware: Ranking the States that Treat You Worst,” a NMA press release that will be issued to media outlets across the nation on May 19th during the run-up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. All 50 states plus the District of Columbia are rated and compared across 24 metrics in five major categories. The rankings will identify the relative differences between the states in how they treat motorists.

The evaluation criteria, shown below, were designed around the basic tenets of how a state regulates and enforces its traffic laws, which citizens’ rights are afforded drivers in traffic court, how (and how much) revenue is generated from drivers, and how much of that revenue is applied toward improving and maintaining highway infrastructure rather than to unrelated projects. We believe our rankings will provide a revealing and in-depth answer to the question posed in the newsletter title.

Legal Protections

  1. Trial by jury available for traffic offenses?
  2. Trial by declaration available?
  3. Traffic offenses tried in real courts of law with due process rather than special administrative courts?
  4. Right of discovery for traffic-case evidence?
  5. Ownership of vehicle electronic data recorder information defined?


  1. Realistic speed limits?
  2. Secondary or primary seat belt enforcement?
  3. Adult choice for wearing motorcycle helmets?
  4. Restrictions on non-texting, hand-held cell phone use?
  5. Limited license suspension for first-time DUI offenses?
  6. Unreasonable driver responsibility or “super speeder” penalties?

Enforcement Tactics

  1. Extent of speed traps?
  2. Extent of road blocks/checkpoints?
  3. Extent of red-light cameras?
  4. Extent of speed cameras?
  5. Minimal use of federally funded ticket blitzes?
  6. Reasonable volume of traffic tickets issued?
  7. Reasonable work-zone speed limits and penalties?

State-Imposed Cost to Drive

  1. Minimal use of toll roads?
  2. Cost to drive based on revenue generated from tolls, state fuel tax, and vehicle-related surcharges?
  3. Cost of auto insurance?

State Fiscal Responsibility

  1. Degree of legislative involvement in transportation planning?
  2. Degree that highway funds are restricted to road maintenance and construction?
  3. Degree that federal aid is not diverted from highway to transit projects?

During this pre-release cycle, we thought we’d have a little fun with a contest for our newsletter subscribers. Each of you will have two opportunities to win a NMA polo shirt.

Opportunity #1: Pick the five states/district you think exploit drivers the most. If each of your five is among the nine lowest-rated in our rankings, you will receive a free NMA shirt with the size and color of your choice.

Opportunity #2: Predict both the highest and lowest rated state/district that our rankings will reveal. If you identify the two correctly, you will win a shirt. (Hint: The top score in our rankings is 85 (out of 100) while the lowest is a very poor 25.

Only one entry and one shirt is permitted per newsletter subscriber, but each entry can include a list of the five worst along with your pick for which of the 51 governments achieved the highest and the lowest score. Entries must be received by the NMA by 3:00 pm Central on Friday May 16th to be eligible. Please include your full name and NMA member number or mailing address. Our email address is [email protected] and our mailing address is NMA, 402 W. 2nd St., Waunakee, WI 53597. Winners will be notified after May 19th when the full NMA rankings are released to the public.

If you want to include a few comments about why you think a particular state is best or worst, it won’t factor into your chances of winning a NMA shirt but it will provide us with some interesting reading material that we may share in a future newsletter. Let the predictions begin!

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