Maintaining roads and highways can be expensive, and the money has to come from somewhere. Usually, it comes from a mix of federal and state funding, with the federal government providing cash for a state’s general fund that allows it to complete highway construction and improvement projects. This federal money, however, has some requirements associated with it, and one of the obligations is to meet certain minimum standards when it comes to drunk driving laws.
According to a recent article in USA Today, however, the vast majority of the states in the U.S. are falling short of the federal standards. Our Portland, OR accident attorneys were distressed to note that Oregon is among two-thirds of states that are not in compliance with federal requirements on drunk driving mandates. There are consequences for not being in compliance, including a requirement that some of the federal money be shifted to programs to combat DUI.
Oregon Not Living up to Federal Drunk Driving Standards
The money provided by the federal government is normally used by states to complete construction projects as needed. This can include constructing or repairing roads and bridges. However, if a state doesn’t live up to federal standards on drunk driving – which tackle issues such as open container laws and repeat offender laws – then they are required instead to use some of the money for safety programs on DUI including enforcement and public education programs. Oregon, in particular will be required to shift $10.7 million toward drunk driving safety efforts.
One problem that exists, and one reason why so many states are out-of-compliance, is that the federal government made a change last year. Congress voted to impose new requirements on many different highway safety programs, and one of the changes made was to strengthen compliance requirements on drunk driving prevention. This is an important issue since drunk driving deaths continue to occur throughout the United States.
In addition to tougher standards, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials weighed in to USA Today on the issue of enforcement. According to the Association’s chief operating officer, the federal government has gotten stricter on the way that the requirements are imposed upon the states, making compliance generally more difficult.
While some states are looking upon this as a burden or an imposition, and some are devising ways to get around the federal mandate on shifting the money into DUI safety programs, the change to the federal standards could be an important wake-up call. If there is more that Oregon can do to curb the dangers of drunk driving and potentially help people to avoid the serious and often deadly accidents that can result from driving intoxicated, then Oregon should do everything in its power to do just that.
So, although USA Today indicates that there are ways to shift the restricted federal money back to road construction, Oregon should instead perhaps consider actually taking active steps to improve DUI education and enforcement to meet federal recommendations. Doing so could potentially save lives.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident in the Portland area, contact Zbinden & Curtis. Call (503) 287-5000.