Laws that prevent driving under the influence are meant to keep drunk drivers off the road and to protect the citizens of Tennessee. With that in mind, a new DUI law was adopted that specifically dealt with how underage drivers convicted of DUI in Tennessee are punished. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, drivers under the age of 17 who are caught with a blood alcohol content over .02 face a fine and a suspended license. Under the new law, the legal limit for drivers between 18 and 21 was raised to .08, while at the same time stiffening penalties to include jail time, a four-figure fine and a license suspension.

However, the federal laws mandate that .02 is the maximum BAC allowed for all drivers who are under 21. Tennessee’s new law regarding drivers who are adults but who are not yet the legal drinking age violates those rules and the federal government may withhold $60 million in transportation funding because of it. That represents 8 percent of the state’s federal funding for roads.

It is unknown how the DUI law was passed without anyone recognizing that it was not in compliance with federal standards. In order to secure the funding, Tennessee will either have to come into compliance with the federal rules by Oct. 1, or be granted a waiver. A special session of the legislature could be convened in order to repeal the law if it becomes necessary, according to ABC News.

Some are hoping that laws already on the books that make it illegal for anyone under 21 to ingest or possess any alcohol will be enough to satisfy the federal zero-tolerance requirements. A decision from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is expected by the end of the week.


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