Two-thirds of the states could be restricted in how they spend some of their federal highway funds this year because they haven’t complied with mandates to combat drunken driving, reports USA Today. A combined $539 million would have to be spent on anti-drunken-driving programs or highway safety improvements instead of on general road and bridge construction in those states. That’s the penalty for not having sufficient laws to restrict open alcohol containers in vehicles or to crack down on repeat drunken-driving offenders.
Nineteen states were already subject to the penalty before this year, and 14 more are having funds held in reserve while the Federal Highway Administration finishes its assessment of their laws. Jack Basso, chief operating officer of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said it appears that the federal government has tightened its application of the rules. “Probably they are within their authority,” Basso said. “The question is, is it really achieving the spirit of the law?” Federal officials say they had to review states’ drunken-driving laws after Congress updated federal highway programs last year, including making changes to some of the compliance requirements. Some states fell short because the federal requirements had changed, while others had reworked their own laws without notifying the federal government as required.