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By Brian Freskos

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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