Tennessee's new DUI law could cost the state $60 million in federal funds

DUI Investigator Posey Brion watches as Ivy Academy sophomore Kelsey Hoskins attempts to walk a straight line wearing "drunk goggles" during the Choices Matter Teen Maze event presented by 1N3 at Chattanooga State Community College on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee stands to lose an estimated $60 million a year in federal highway funding as a result of a new state law dealing with young drivers and alcohol, according to U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.

The Nashville congressman said he was notified Friday of the problem by National Highway Safety Administration officials.

Cooper said the Tennessee legislation, SB 1317, reduced alcohol offenses for minor drivers. It increased the allowable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) from .02 to .08 for 18-to-20-year-olds. It was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 5and went into effect July 1.

According to Cooper, the federal zero tolerance law requires that states limit BAC to .02 for drivers under 21. If a state is not in compliance with federal drunk driving laws, the U.S. Department of Transportation must withhold 8 percent of the state's federal highway funding.

NHTSA officials warned that if Tennessee is not in compliance on Oct. 1, the state will forfeit about $60 million in highway funding, according to Cooper.

"This must be a mistake," the congressman said. "No one wants more drunk drivers on the road. State leaders should act immediately and comply with a zero tolerance policy."