New Tenn. DUI law could affect road funding

JACKSON, Tenn. — A new state law could cost Tennessee $60 million in federal road funding.

construction1“I don’t think we can afford to lose that much money,” State Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said.

Federal guidelines suggest a strict 0.02 percent allowable blood alcohol content for underage drivers. The new state law raises that limit to 0.08 percent for 18- to 20-year-olds.

Shaw said on the surface the law made sense. “The argument was that we needed to try to make it the alcohol level across the board the same,” he said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it will withhold 8 percent of Tennessee’s federal highway funding if the state does not comply by Oct. 1.

State Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, said he needs more information. “We’ve got to be very cautious of losing any federal highway funds,” he said.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation argued two other existing state laws keep Tennessee in compliance with the zero-tolerance law. TDOT said it is up to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to decide whether those statutes keep the state in compliance. TDOT said the agency indicated it will respond by the end of the week.

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