The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety has been awarded $734,673 from the U.S. Department of Transportation as a reward for passing tougher drunk driving laws this year.
The 2003 Nevada Legislature passed the law lowering the standard at which a driver is considered legally drunk from 0.10 percent blood alcohol to 0.08 percent. That standard was mandated by President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress several years ago and affirmed by the Bush administration.
As part of the federal law, the state was told it would lose millions in highway fund money - the state's primary source of road construction and maintenance funding - if it didn't adopt the new standard. Highway fund money is collected by the states as a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel and turned over to the federal government which redistributes it to the states according to a formula.
Nevada lawmakers for two sessions refused to adopt the 0.08 standard. But finally, this year, they were told if they didn't, the federal government would dock the state a total of $28.4 million in highway money over the next four years. They relented and the new standard took effect Sept. 23.
According to Chuck Abbott of the Office of Traffic Safety, Nevada will use nearly two-thirds of the $734,673 to fund programs focused on preventing drunks from driving. That includes DUI checkpoints, traffic enforcement equipment and court diversion programs providing alternatives to jail sentences in DUI cases.
The rest of the money will probably go to education programs and for a statewide assessment of Nevada's impaired-driving programs.