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
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
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



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.