Conclusions

The analysis of data from the first four states that enacted Open Container laws in 1999 in response to the TEA-21 Restoration Act, found that measures of alcohol-involvement in crashes appeared to decline during the six-month periods following the beginning of enforcement, compared to the same six-month periods one year earlier. The changes were in the direction expected if the laws have an impact; however, the differences were not statistically significant.

Comparisons of crash data showed that states that lacked Open Container laws had significantly greater percentages of alcohol-involved fatal and single-vehicle crashes than the states with partially or fully-conforming laws. Although the differences cannot be attributed with certainty to the presence or absence of Open Container laws, the results of the analyses suggest that conformance with some or all of the six elements of the Federal requirements contributes measurably to traffic safety.

Further, states that enacted conforming laws in 1999 and 2000 experienced the lowest proportion of alcohol-involved fatal crashes of the four categories of states, suggesting that public consideration and subsequent adoption of proposed laws may increase awareness of the issues and lead to safety benefits. Perhaps equally important when considering whether such laws should be enacted, the national survey found that a substantial majority of the driving-age public support Open Container laws, and thus, appears to recognize their value in contributing to traffic safety.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the cooperation and crash data provided by Scott Falb, Iowa Office of Driver Services, Research and Training Division; Greg Costello, Maine Department of Transportation, Accident Records Section, and Sandra Carroll, Maine Judicial Branch, Violations Bureau; Joseph A. Bucci and Michael Sprague, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Engineering Division; and, Pat Winters, South Dakota Department of Transportation, Accident Records Section.

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