West Virginia Senate passes drunken-driving bill

| 1/26/2004

Ready to bow to pressure to preserve millions in federal highway dollars, legislation that would lower West Virginia’s drunken-driving threshold appears to be on the fast track this session.

The first bill of the 2004 legislative session in West Virginia cleared the Senate Jan. 16 when senators unanimously approved a proposal to reduce the drunken-driving limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent, the Daily Telegraph reported. SB166 now heads to the House for consideration.

A 2000 federal law required each state’s legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by Oct. 1, 2003, or lose 2 percent of its highway money. West Virginia is one of only four states (Colorado, Delaware and Minnesota being the others) yet to conform to the federal mandate.

West Virginia’s previous refusal to adhere to the standard cost the state $2.6 million in highway dollars when lawmakers ignored the Oct. 1 deadline, the newspaper reported. Next year, the loss will be $5.2 million, with the penalty growing to $10.5 million in the 2007 budget year.

States that adopt the new limit by Oct. 1, 2006, can recover the withheld funds.