The word “highway” commonly is thought to mean a multi-lane thoroughfare. Legally, however, the term is far more broad. Generally speaking, a highway is a stretch of land over which the entire public has a general right of passage. Once established, travelers have the right to do all acts reasonably incident to the “viatic” use of a highway. This right generally includes the right to drive vehicles and to park.
A “road” in common usage has a greater significance than a “way.” A road may be public or private. A road available to all citizens is a public road.
For more information on public roads, visit our types of roads page.
For more information on private roads, visit our private roads page.
A street often is characterized as a public road located in a town or city. In the New Hampshire planning and zoning statutes, the term is defined as including “street, avenue, boulevard, road, lane, alley, viaduct, highway, freeway and other ways.” RSA 672:13.
A way represents the broadest term used to describe a strip of land over which one or more individuals may pass. All highways are ways, but not all ways are highways. The term “way” is generic, referring to many things besides roads. A way may be either public or private. Under the New Hampshire motor vehicle laws, “way” includes a wide array of public and privately owned areas available for public use, including parking lots maintained primarily for the benefit of paying customers. RSA 259:125.
Zoning ordinance definitions
Zoning ordinances often contain their own definitions of roads and streets, and they must be read in conjunction with applicable statutory definitions.