Greensboro, NC -- The federal Department of Transportation says North Carolina needs to step up some of its drinking and driving laws or risk funding road construction.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata in late February. It details three areas where North Carolina law fails to meet national standards, and if the state doesn't strengthen those laws by July it could be forced to divert millions of dollars away from work on roads and bridges and into safety programs. The Wilmington StarNews reports that figure at $44.1 million.
NCDOT says the state's laws were up to snuff until new highway legislation President Barack Obama approved last summer. Now, the feds say North Carolina's open container law isn't specific enough, that the state needs to shore up exceptions that could keep repeat drunk drivers from having to get interlock breathalyzers on all their cars and that early releases could keep some convicted drunk drivers from serving full minimum sentences.
It won't require big tweaks to North Carolina law to meet the new federal baseline by July. NCDOT says it is drafting the language of a bill right now that would fix the issues and adds that Onslow County Rep. Phil Shepard has agreed to sponsor it. That means NCDOT is confident everything will be in compliance by July 1.
North Carolina isn't alone when it comes to facing changes. The StarNews reports 33 states in all fail to meet the new federal minimum standards.
WFMY News 2