Federal Government to Offer New Incentives to 47 States to Lower Legal Threshold for Impaired Driving
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced incentive grants totaling $47.8 million to 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for improving highway safety by lowering the legal threshold for impaired driving to .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), according to the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA).
The fiscal year 2004 incentive grant recipients from the U.S. Department of Transportation include all the states except Colorado, Delaware, and Minnesota. These states had 2 percent of their federal highway construction funds withheld as of Oct. 1, 2003. Colorado had nearly $5 million withheld, Delaware nearly $1.6 million, and Minnesota nearly $5.7 million. Once a state's law becomes effective, all withheld funds will be restored to the state as quickly as possible.
Colorado enacted a law that became effective July 1. Minnesota’s law is set to become effective Aug. 1, 2005. Neither state was eligible for the grants. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia are receiving these incentive grants for the first time. The grant funds may be used for highway safety or highway infrastructure projects, according to NAFA.
The increase in the number of states with .08 laws was prompted by an October 2000 law that made .08 BAC the national standard for impaired driving. The penalty for not complying with the law increases in 2 percent increments each year to a maximum of 8 percent in fiscal year 2007 and continues at that rate annually thereafter.
The incentive grants announced were authorized by the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004 to encourage states to enact and enforce laws that make it illegal for drivers with a BAC of .08 or greater to operate a motor vehicle.
Delaware lowered the state's legal threshold for impaired driving to a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Once signed into law by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, Delaware will become the final state in the country to adopt the .08 BAC legal standard, said NAFA. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have adopted .08.
According to preliminary estimates, 40 percent — 17,401 — of 43,220 highway deaths in 2003 were alcohol-related. When Congress adopted the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998, it provided $500 million in incentives to states adopting .08 BAC laws. With Delaware's approval, all states have met the requirements for those incentive grants.