July 2014

In 2008 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) denied several petitions to create a new class of vehicles known as medium-speed vehicles (MSVs), which would have a top speed of 35 mph. The petitioners asked that MSVs be subject to a set of safety standards greater than those applied to low-speed vehicles (LSVs) but substantially less than those applied to conventional passenger cars. NHTSA denied the petition because, unlike LSVs, which are permitted to have a top speed of 25 mph and are intended for use in controlled, low-speed communities, MSVs travel in higher-risk traffic situations and should comply with all of the safety standards set for passenger cars. "While we appreciate the importance of environmental issues," the agency wrote in its denial, "NHTSA does not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to significantly increase the risk of deaths and serious injuries to save fuel by introducing a new class of motor vehicles that does not provide adequate safety protection."

However, just because NHTSA doesn't recognize MSVs doesn't mean they aren't allowed on public roads. States, not NHTSA, are responsible for regulating the operation of motor vehicles on the public roads and for handling titling and registration. There are nine states (Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington) that specifically allow MSV use on specified portions of their public roads. Colorado enacted a law permitting the use of MSVs on the road once the U.S. Department of Transportation sets safety standards for them.

The table and map below show which roads MSVs are permitted on and their legally attainable speeds.

State On which roads are low-speed vehicles permitted? What is the top speed permissible for medium-speed vehicles?
Alabama no law
Alaska no law
Arizona no law
Arkansas no law
California no law
Colorado roads with posted limit of 45 mph or less once DOT adopts standard 45 mph
Connecticut no law
Delaware no law
District of Columbia no law
Florida no law
Georgia no law
Hawaii no law
Idaho no law
Illinois no law
Indiana no law
Iowa no law
Kansas no law
Kentucky roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less 45 mph
Louisiana no law
Maine no law
Maryland roads on which the vehicle's speed capability exceeds the posted speed limit by at least 5 mph 55 mph
Massachusetts no law
Michigan no law
Minnesota roads with a posted limit of 35 mph or less 35 mph
Mississippi no law
Missouri no law
Montana roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less 45 mph
Nebraska no law
Nevada no law
New Hampshire no law
New Jersey no law
New Mexico no law
New York no law
North Carolina no law
North Dakota no law
Ohio no law
Oklahoma roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less 35 mph
Oregon roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less 35 mph
Pennsylvania no law
Rhode Island no law
South Carolina no law
South Dakota no law
Tennessee roads with a posted limit of 40 mph or less 35 mph
Texas roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less 35 mph
Utah no law
Vermont no law
Virginia no law
Washington roads with a posted limit of 35 mph or less; roads with a posted limit of 45 mph or less in island counties connected only by ferry 35 mph
West Virginia no law
Wisconsin no law
Wyoming no law