US Department of Transportation Logo

Open Container Laws And
Alcohol Involved Crashes

NHTSA: People Saving People Logo

DOT HS 809 426

Some Preliminary Data

April 2002


Technical Documentation Page
Executive Summary
Background
Purpose of Section 154
Open Container Law Incentives
Open Container Law Conformance Criteria
Status of Conformance: October 2000
Evaluation of the Effects of Open Container Laws

Public Opinion Concerning Open Container Laws
Conclusions
Acknowledgments
References 
Appendix A: Data Tables

Table 1: Summary of Previous Open Container Laws In the First Four States to Enact Laws to Conform with TEA-21 Requirements


Figure 1: Percent of All Fatal Crashes That Were Alcohol-Involved: Six-Month Period After Enforcement Began Compared to the Same Period in the Previous Year


Figure 2: Nighttime Hit-and-Run Crashes: Six-Month Period After Enforcement Began Compared to the Same Period in the Previous Year

Figure 3: Percent of All Fatal Crashes That Were Alcohol-Involved

Figure 4: Percent of Residents Who Believe Their States Should Have An Open Container Law

 

This report presents the results of a study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to assess the highway safety effects of laws that prohibit open containers of alcoholic beverages to be located in the passenger compartment of motor vehicles operated on public roadways. These laws are commonly referred to as Open Container laws. 

Before and After Comparison of the Four States

Four states (IA, ME, RI, SD) modified existing Open Container laws in 1999 to be in conformance with the Federal requirements established in Section 154 of Chapter 1 of Title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.), and the Actís implementing regulations, 23 CFR Part 1270. As of January 2000, only these four states had enacted Open Container legislation in response to the TEA-21 Restora≠tion Act. One of the states enacted its legislation in May of 1999 and the other three states enacted their legislation in July of 1999. All four states had Open Container laws when the TEA-21 Restoration Act was enacted, but each of those laws contained deficiencies that prevented them from fully conforming with the new Federal requirement. Table 1 summarizes the extent to which those statesí previous open container laws complied with the six elements of the Federal requirements. South Dakota had not demonstrated that its law covered all alcoholic beverages and all public highways and rights-of-way; Iowa, Rhode Island, and Maine had not demonstrated that their laws prohibited both possession and consumption, and that they covered the entire passenger area and all occupants of a vehicle. Maine, in addition, had not demonstrated that its law covered all public highways.