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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release July 26, 1999

     Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore today announced incentive

grants totaling $57.4 million for 17 states and the District of Columbia for legally lowering the threshold for drunk driving to .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

"Safety is our Administration's highest transportation priority, and these grants are an important step toward preventing alcohol-related traffic crashes," Vice President Gore said. "The people of these states and the District of Columbia have taken a tough stance against drinking and driving, and I continue to challenge the Congress to enact legislation to keep impaired drivers off America's roads."

The grants are being awarded under provisions of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which authorizes more than $500 million in federal grants to states over 6 years as incentives to enact and enforce laws that make it a drunk driving offense per se to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater.

"The scientific evidence is clear: at .08 BAC a person is impaired and should not be driving -- it is practical and prudent that we have strict laws with visible enforcement to keep drunk drivers off the road," U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater said. "These incentive grants support Vice President Gore's efforts to make .08 BAC the national standard for drunk driving."

The states receiving incentive grants include: Alabama, $2.4 million; California, $13.5 million; Florida, $6.2 million; Hawaii, $705,417; Idaho, $924,560; Illinois, $5.8 million; Kansas, $2.1 million; Maine, $705,417; New Hampshire, $705,417; New Mexico, $1.1 million; North Carolina, $3.5 million; Oregon, $1.9 million; Texas, $9.4 million; Utah, $1.1 million; Vermont, $705,417; Virginia, $3.1 million; and Washington, $2.7 million. The District of Columbia will receive $705,417.

The District of Columbia, Texas and Washington received grants for the first time this year for passing .08 BAC legislation effective in 1999. The remaining 15 states also received grants last year for having .08 BAC laws. This is the second year of TEA-21 authorized .08 BAC incentive grants. To qualify for the grants, states must have enacted .08 BAC laws by July 15 and have them in effect by Sept. 30 of the fiscal year for which the grant is given.

Recent U.S. Department of Transportation and General Accounting Office reports conclude that the best countermeasure against drunk driving is a combination of laws, including .08 BAC or lower, sustained public education, and vigorous enforcement. The reports indicate that .08 BAC laws, when added to existing laws and programs, are associated with reductions in alcohol-related fatalities.

According to preliminary U.S. Department of Transportation figures, alcohol was involved in 38.4 percent of the nation's total number of traffic fatalities in 1998, a record low.

The grants will be awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration.

Funds provided as .08 BAC incentive grants may be used to support a variety of highway safety programs ranging from encouraging seat belt use and special traffic enforcement programs to motorcycle education. These grant funds also may be used for highway construction. Last year, 78 percent of .08 incentive funding was used for highway safety programs.