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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 4
Percent of Residents Who Believe Their State Should Have an
Open Container Law: Comparison of States with No-Open Container Laws
to States with Partially and Fully-Conforming Laws

Graph of Figure 4. Percent of Residents Who Believe Their State Should Have an Open Container Lawd

(Note: data from Puerto Rico were not available to include in this analysis, 
therefore, n=3 in the No Open Container law category in Figure 4.)


  1. Prior to TEA-21, Congress had enacted 23 U.S.C. Section 410 (the Section 410 program) to encourage states to enact and enforce effective impaired driving measures (including open container laws). Under this program, states could qualify for supplemental grant funds if they were eligible for a basic Section 410 grant, and they had an open container law that met certain requirements. TEA-21 changed the Section 410 program and removed the open container incentive grant criterion. The conferees to that legislation had intended to create a new open container transfer program to encourage states to enact open container laws, but the new program was inadvertently omitted from the TEA-21 conference report; the program was included instead in the TEA-21 Restoration Act. (Information presented in this report about TEA-21 and the open container regulations, was obtained from the TEA-21 website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21.) 

  2. Various terms are used throughout the United States for offenses involving drinking and driving. In this report, Driving While Impaired (DWI) is used to refer to all occurrences of driving at or above the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of a jurisdiction. 

  3. The Act also provides that states may elect to use all or a portion of the transferred funds for hazard elimination activities under 23 U.S.C. 152. 

  4. The amount of the apportionment to be transferred may be derived from one or more of the apportionments under Sections 104(b)(1), (3) and (4). In other words, the total amount to be transferred from a non-conforming state will be calculated based on a percentage of the funds apportioned to the state under each of Sections 104(b)(1), (3) and (4). However, the actual transfers need not be evenly distributed among these three sources. The transferred funds may come from any one or a combination of the apportionments under Sections 104(b)(1), (3) or (4), as long as the appropriate total amount is transferred from one or more of these three sections. The rule specifies that all of the affected state agencies should participate in deciding how transferred funds should be directed. 

  5. Section 154 provides that nonconforming states will be subject to the transfer of funds beginning in fiscal year 2001. To avoid the transfer, each state must submit a certification demonstrating conformance. The certifications submitted by the states under this Part will provide the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration with the basis for finding states in conformance with the Open Container requirements. Until a state has been determined to be in conformance with these requirements, it must submit a certification by an appropriate state official that the state has enacted and is enforcing a conforming open container law. Once a state has been determined to be in conformance with the requirements, the state would not be required to submit certifications in subsequent fiscal years, unless the state’s law had changed or the state had ceased to enforce the open container law. States are required only to submit a certification that they are enforcing their laws to demonstrate enforcement under the regulation. 

  6. This information was provided by NHTSA’s Office of the Chief Counsel. 

  7. Data illustrated in all figures are presented in Appendix A. 

  8. Data for Iowa and Rhode Island are not available; the states’ crash investigation forms lack data fields for hit and run crashes.