The Fleecing of U.S. Motorists: States that Collect the Most Tolls, Taxes and Fines also Divert More from Highway Spending

August 2014

The 15 states that run the most speed traps and collect the most road-user fees also rank as the least fiscally responsible when it comes to transportation spending, according to a study released by the National Motorists Association (NMA).

The motorists’ rights organization compared all 50 states by number of speed traps operated per thousand lane miles, as reported to The National Speed Trap Exchange. The 15 states with the highest speed trap activity are:

1. New Jersey 9. Florida
2. Massachusetts 10. New Hampshire
3. Rhode Island 11. Michigan
4. Delaware 12. Illinois
5. Hawaii 13. New York
6. California 14. Virginia
7. Maryland 15. Vermont
8. Connecticut

These states are also among those with the highest collection rates of annual fuel taxes, tolls, and license taxes per lane mile—more than three times the average of the other 35 states.

In addition, the NMA evaluated the degree to which the states spend that money on true highway projects. Using the results from a comprehensive third-party survey of transportation officials from all 50 states, the NMA assigned a financial responsibility grade for each state based on the following criteria:

Grade Spending Restrictions
A: Road-user fees are constitutionally restricted exclusively to road construction and maintenance
B: Road-user fees are constitutionally restricted to road use, plus transit or policing
C: Road-user fees are divided by statute among roads, transit, policing and related uses
D: Road-user fees are heavily diverted to transit and non-transportation uses
F: Road-user fees are appropriated at will for any purpose

“Our analysis shows the states that target motorists the most through predatory speed traps are also the ones that charge motorists the highest fees and taxes to use the roads,” said NMA President Gary Biller. “These states also have fewer checks and balances when it comes to dedicating this revenue strictly to maintaining roads and bridges. Motorists should be asking their public officials, ‘What are we getting for our money?’”

Road-user fees cover costs for road and bridge planning, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance, and overhead without regard to state vs. local jurisdiction. Funding of transit projects as well as for highway patrol or other policing activities was not considered a direct road-use investment for this analysis.

Biller pointed out that since the 1970s many states have weakened constitutional protections for dedicated road-user fees, allowing them to be funneled into public transit projects. He added that state statutes dedicating road-user fees to roads are frequently amended to shift funds to general purpose. “The country’s highway infrastructure is in crisis, yet states permit policymakers to divert road-user fees in varying degrees to non-highway pet projects.”

Speed trap information for all 50 states, their records in collecting road-user fees, and in applying those funds toward critical highway infrastructure are listed in the table below.

Click any column header to sort ascending/descending                                                                                                                                                                                 

State
Number of Speed Traps per thousand lane miles1
Speed Trap Activity Rank, 1 to 50
(50 worst)
State Collected Road-User Fees2
(2011 data) $ per lane mile
State-Collected Road-User Fees Rank, 1 to 50
(50 most expensive)
Extent to Which Road-User Fees are Applied to Highways3, Grade
New Jersey 32.6 50 $29,972 48 D
Massachusetts 26.6 49 $19,774 43 C
Rhode Island 24.1 48 $15,059 42 C
Delaware 21.5 47 $31,037 49 C
Hawaii 21.5 46 $45,968 50 D
California 20.1 45 $24,544 46 C
Maryland 19.4 44 $22,700 45 F
Connecticut 18.7 43 $14,798 40 C
Florida 18.1 42 $21,065 44 D
New Hampshire 17.3 41 $13,200 39 B
Michigan 15.9 40 $7,735 29 B
Illinois 14.4 39 $13,115 38 C
New York 14.3 38 $25,685 47 D
Virginia 13.5 37 $10,242 34 C
Vermont 13 36 $5,743 20 F
Ohio 12.9 35 $10,800 36 B
Pennsylvania 11.1 34 $14,805 41 B
Louisiana 10.8 33 $5,951 22 D
Georgia 10.1 32 $4,900 14 C
Washington 10.1 31 $11,336 37 A
Colorado 9.8 30 $6,643 26 B
Texas 9.3 29 $9,359 32 D
Arizona 9 28 $7,766 30 C
South Carolina 9 27 $5,696 18 C
Tennessee 8.8 26 $6,496 25 C
Maine 8.8 25 $9,722 33 B
Nevada 8.5 24 $7,511 28 B
Oregon 7.7 23 $9,047 31 A
Indiana 7.5 22 $5,887 21 C
North Carolina 7.5 21 $10,309 35 D
West Virginia 7 20 $6,297 24 A
Wisconsin 6.7 19 $6,768 27 D
Oklahoma 5.9 18 $5,648 17 C
Missouri 5.8 17 $3,765 10 A
Utah 5.7 16 $5,630 16 B
Alabama 5.6 15 $4,238 13 B
Minnesota 4.6 14 $5,227 15 A
Arkansas 4.1 13 $3,127 8 C
Kentucky 3.3 12 $6,000 23 B
Idaho 3 11 $4,173 12 A
Wyoming 2.9 10 $2,920 7 A
New Mexico 2.9 9 $2,748 5 C
Mississippi 2.7 8 $3,569 9 B
Alaska 2.6 7 $5,717 19 F
Iowa 2.4 6 $4,150 11 A
Kansas 2.3 5 $2,553 4 B
Nebraska 1.6 4 $2,792 6 C
Montana 1 3 $2,432 3 A
South Dakota 0.9 2 $1,168 1 A
North Dakota 0.7 1 $1,601 2 A
15 Highest Speed Trap States 19.4 $20,042
35 Lowest Speed Trap States 6.1 $5,907
US Average 9.1 $9,086