The National Motorists Association is out with annual state rankings on which states look after motorists’ interests fairly in its view. Maryland comes in among the worst in the country: only four states (NY, DE, NJ, VT) and D.C. are worse.
What accounts for the poor showing? Maryland actually does not do too badly on the dimensions of legal protections for motorists (mostly procedural rights for the accused) and regulatory intensity (the degree to which stiff penalties and prohibitions are reserved for the most dangerous driver behavior).
Unfortunately, we have very poor ratings in the survey’s other three categories. Our cost of driving, as influenced by government policy, is very high — that would include things like the gas tax, tolls, registration and insurance. Only New Jersey, Vermont, and D.C. are worse in the extent to which fees and taxes paid by motorists are diverted to non-road uses, including but not limited to transit. To Maryland, your car is a cash cow, and someone else is probably getting the milk.
Worst of all? The category known as enforcement tactics. According to NMA, this is a measure of “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?” As NMA sees it, no state — only the District of Columbia — is worse off on this dimension than we are.
No doubt Maryland’s poor showing has some connection with our being in the crowded Northeast, since of the ten worst scorers, all but Illinois (7th worst) and Florida (8th) are in the country’s upper right. But note that Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, all relatively crowded northeastern states, rank solidly in the middle of the pack, while Maine scores better than average. Maybe Maryland’s government will never leave drivers as free as those in North Dakota or Wyoming, but how about at least reducing the harassment to, say, Massachusetts levels?
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