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Open Container Laws And
Alcohol Involved Crashes

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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. 

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

Graph of Figure 1: Percent of All Fatal Crashes That Were Alcohol-Involvedd

Hit-and-run crashes, particularly during night­time hours, pro­vide an indi­rect meas­ure of the incidence of drinking and driving; it is well-known to law en­force­ment that many drivers flee the scene of a nighttime crash to con­ceal their al­cohol-impair­ment. Figure 2 presents the numbers of nighttime hit and run crashes (in the two states for which data are avail­able) during the six-month periods fol­low­ing the be­ginning of enforce­ment of the states’ conforming laws, compared to data from the same six-month periods in the previous year.8 The figure shows that the numbers of hit-and-run crashes declined in both states during the first six months after enforcement of their conform­ing laws began, com­pared to the same six-month periods one year earlier. Chi Square tests found the difference to be statistically significant for Maine, but not for South Dakota (p= 0.05).