NC among states penalized for being too lax on drunken driving
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By Brian Freskos
Brian.Freskos@StarNewsOnline.com

WILMINGTON, NC (StarNewsOnline.com) -- Less than a year after President Barack Obama approved a piece of sweeping highway legislation, the U.S. Department of Transportation has penalized 33 states, North Carolina among them, for failing to comply with mandates aimed at curbing drunken driving.

In states where laws are too lax to meet the recently revamped federal requirements, transportation officials likely will divert a combined $539 million to highway safety improvements and anti-drunken-driving programs instead of spending those funds on general road and bridge construction.

Many states are already subject to the penalty. In North Carolina, officials are waiting for the U.S. DOT to make a final decision on whether its laws meet federal standards. If not, the state must divert $44.1 million from its construction budget to its safety budget, a sum rivaled only by California, which must redirect $70.5 million.

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The federal government does not have the right to make such mandates on the states. I agree that North Carolina is too easy on drunk drivers, but it is not the business of the federal government.

Ummmm. . . pretty sure you didn't read my post right and if you did, WHAT????

You want to get all the drunks off the highway?????????, then the states and feds need to get out of the alcohol business!!! period. I don't know of anybody that wants to be on the road with a drunk driver, if .08 is really incapacitating then so is a driver doing 40 in a 55 or these jerks that pull out in front of you and turn 1/4 mile down the road, what we have been seeing lately is repeat hard core drunks that are killing people, and this is to be laid on the courts steps, but a man or woman that has been out to eat and had a couple drinks are not your problem, if you think so then I'm all for prohibition again myself.

Thanks to our President's leadership we won't have to bury hundreds of people each year because some innocent is killed by drunk drivers. It is a serious matter. Much more important than slow moving traffic at rush hour.

Obama has done nothing of substance on this issue. If you have info to the contrary, I'd sure like to see it.

"Thanks to our President's leadership we won't have to bury" etc., etc.? You sound like one of those morons in North Korea who "worship" their devine leader. Kind of weird.

We don't need to spend any more money on more safety programs or ads or campaigns. We DO need to have judges who do not take money from lawyers to get repeat drunk drivers off the hook. Period. We keep voting the same judges back in, most of the time because no one runs against them. We need to put these drunk drivers somewhere where they can't drink and drive again. Not having a license does not discourage them. No insurance doesn't discourage them. Being unable to get out of charges in a decent court would do it.

If NC and the rest of the states have had almost a year, surely someone could have begun to take steps to offset this ... oh yeah, Beverly and the Legislators had other things on their minds. We don't need better roads and safe bridges anyway. If we demanded the same kind of justice in courtrooms that we want from our cable company (we can sure raise heck when the tv goes out), maybe we wouldn't be facing this. I'm sure no one in the legislature, governor's office or judges will be willing to chip in and pay this off.

One DWI case too many that have been let go/dismissed to return to the streets to kill I guess...and in 33 states???

I'd maybe agree with you EXCEPT that on almost any day (take today, for example), you can check out the local MugShots & find yet ANOTHER perp charged with (1) speeding, (2) driving while impaired, and (DRUM ROLL, PLEASE) (3) habitual impaired driving. I gotta say, I don't really mind the federal government prodding NC to face its problem in this regard. In the past couple of weeks alone, we've had several local residents wiped off the face of the earth due to . . . HABITUAL IMPAIRED DRIVERS! If NC was doing IT'S job to stop these criminals before they kill somebody, and quit letting them out, and letting them out, and . . . well, you get the picture. So the good people of NC get shagged twice -- with habitual DWI criminals constantly being set free and now, penalized to the tune of $44.1 million taken from its general road and bridge construction budget. Maybe the $$$ would be better spent on highway safety improvements and anti-drunken-driving programs, but it's a shame for NC that we can't have safe roads AND the $44.1 million stay in the construction budget.

I'm as frustrated with drunk drivers as you are. Lately, it's been one preventable tragedy after another. The system obviously has to be fixed.

Having said that, I'm not very comfortable with the usurpation of States Rights by our federal government and that's what's happening when the Feds withhold federal funds unless a state does exactly what the feds tell them to do. After all, those funds came from the states in the first place. How do we choose which States Rights we give up? Who makes those decisions? The morons in Washington don't seem to be much more capable than the morons in our own state house. It's a slippery slope.

Although you may find this to be a bit utopian, I think the solution ultimately lies within ourselves. It's our state. We voted these people into office. It's our obligation to insist that they do the right thing. It's our obligation to hold their feet to the proverbial fire. It's time for all of us to be more active instead of passive when it comes to determining how our state and local governments act. It’s up to us to fix it, not the federal government.

Keep relying on big brother to fix all of your problems and big brother will ultimately control your entire life. If you feel strongly about an issue (like this one) you have to make the effort to become involved. Anything less than that will lead to something far greater than States Rights issues. It will lead to a gradual usurpation of all of your rights. No pain .....No gain.

Correct me if I'm wrong

"Having said that, I'm not very comfortable with the usurpation of States Rights by our federal government and that's what's happening when the Feds withhold federal funds unless a state does exactly what the feds tell them to do. After all, those funds came from the states in the first place. How do we choose which States Rights we give up?"
I thought that the Federal Highway Administration funds came from the Federal Gasoline tax, which is separate from the state tax.
So the money may originate here but its not state funds.

"when the Feds withhold federal funds"
Withhold funds?
"If not, the state must divert $44.1 million from its construction budget to its safety budget"

So in essence the state loses NOTHING - instead of using that $44.1M for bridge building it has to go to anti drunk driving stuff. No withholding at all.

I'm not too happy about this for many reasons - the primary one being the judiciary might not be doing it's job and NC is is paying a price for their shortcomings.
But I don't see your harsh condemnation of the FEDs as being totally correct either.

Vog

Disagree ...To quote myself: "those funds came from the states in the first place", Meaning they came from NC, not a state fund.

"$44.1M for bridge building it has to go to anti drunk driving stuff. No withholding at all": It's witholding the money from projects that the state has allocated it for; usurping the State's right to self-determine its use.

Bottom line: (1)Not comfortable with the Feds tweaking state laws and (2)If there's a problem in NC with DUI enforcement (and there is) NC residents should get off their butts and fix it instead of always relying on big brother while essentially doing nothing themselves.

Chef

I agree that the state doesn't do enough about drunk driving.
That said - if the state ACCEPTS money from big brother (which they do) on a routine basis (which they have done) and big brother says hey try to get your drunk driving under control or we'll restrict the money we give you.
And the state doesn't do it?
I've got no sympathy for the state.
Of course - if we as a state stop sucking on the teat of big government then no bridges will get built and no roads would get maintained because we couldn't afford it ourselves.
Even our Skyway project involves federal grant money.

The federal government is NOT an ATM Chef. We are being punished for not listening.
We brought this on ourselves

Vog

Not looking to the Feds as an ATM. Just expect to get back what we contribute without having the Feds dictate to a state on an area of law that's always been a State's right to determine.

You may not realize it, but you're already given up on the entire concept of State's Rights. I think that's a mistake.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

I am by no means giving up on states rights.
The gasoline tax is broken up into two separate parts, one state, one federal.
The fact that the federal money is coming back to the state does NOT give the state the ability to dictate how that money is spent when in fact the FEDs already say we'll give you this money for new bridges UNLESS you can't control drunk driving then you'll have to spend it on education and prevention.
Now lets assume those Fed dollars are part of a bigger pool that includes money from all 50 states. ND has needs but the FEDs decide they don't need their new road as badly as NC needs their bridge. So the FEDs give all of NDs gas tax plus some extra to NC for their bridge. Hasn't the Federal government already impinged on states rights? (Like ND's) Or did they really say to NC "we are granting you this money with strings attached"?

Vog

Well, I guess between failing to comply with mandates aimed at curbing drunken driving & Mr. Rabon, all of us po' folk in Brunswick County will continue to fight the bridge traffic every morning & afternoon commute, for at least the near future. Hey, thanks, guys! (NOT)

oh, waaaaaa You have to wait in traffic at the bridge. One of the Brunswick county habitual drunk drivers killed my child and her children have to grow up without their mother.

You would rather whine about sitting in traffic then have drunk drivers off the roads and in prison BEFORE they kill your loved one.
Sad.. rethink your priorities.

Hey, why don't we just drop the pretenses and dispense with state governments? That would free up more of our money for the federal government to waste.

After all, what ever gave us the idea that State's governments have any validity or credibility? The Constitution of the UNITED STATES of America? Or the Declaration of Independence?

If we just open our eyes a little bit, we will see that we now exist to serve the federal government and the whims of the federal bureaucrats, period. The future that we read about is here and we don't even recognize it.

The federal government is starting to treat the concept of States Rights as something of an insider joke that they can laugh about as they sit back in their plush offices in Washington and do nothing.

States Rights??? What about the rights of all the innocent people (and their families) who have been killed by these lax laws. Two weeks ago an innocent hard working lady was killed by a drunk driver because of the stupid laws that are now in place. And you don't want that changed? If the law makers in this state fail to change laws (or are not capable of changing them) that will allow innocent people to be killed by drunken drivers, the federal government should step in and help. Seems to me, it is the state law makers that are sitting back in their plush offices and doing nothing. If they perform their jobs as they should...this conversation would not be neccessary.

The federal government does not have the Constitutional authority to issue such mandates. That is the way the government was set up. If we want tougher laws in North Carolina, then we the people of this state need to urge our state officials to make tougher laws against drunk driving. The first thing they need to do is to make it a felony instead of just a misdemeanor. That in of itself would open the door to stiffer penalties. They need to take it out of fair sentencing and put it under the structured sentencing. That would mean the judge has less flexibility on what penalty to hand down.

I don't know how it is now, but a few years back I worked for an attorney and at the time, you could pretty much just hire an attorney and be let off with some kind of fine with no jail time.

Perhaps that will clarify my perspective on States Rights issues more succininctly.

Chef