Highways and Motor Vehicles Law and Legal Definition

The term "highway" includes all public roads and ways. Highway and motor vehicles law is concerned with the regulation and maintenance of all means of travel open to the public. It includes as turnpikes, toll roads, bridges, ferries, navigable waters, etc. Generally, all roads which the legislature has power to establish are public roads. Highways are distinguished from private roads in that highways are intended for public use, and are maintained at the public's expense.

Both state and federal highway law exists, but emphasis should be placed on local rules and regulations. Typically, in most jurisdictions, highway officers are personally liable for injuries to persons or property resulting from acts of their negligence in connection with the construction and repair of highways, streets and bridges, but there is some authority to the contrary.

Established in 1966 by 49 U.S.C. § 102, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) establishes overall transportation policy for the United States. Its goal is to ensure a "coordinated, effective administration of the transportation programs of the Federal Government."

Systematic motor-vehicle safety efforts began during the 1960s. In 1966, passage of the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act authorized the federal government to set and regulate standards for motor vehicles and highways, a mechanism necessary for effective prevention. Many changes in both vehicle and highway design followed this mandate.