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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
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


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. 


The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), H.R. 2400, P.L. 105-178, was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on 22 May 1998 and signed into law on 9 June 1998. On 22 July 1998, a technical corrections bill, entitled the TEA-21 Restoration Act, P.L. 105-206, was enacted to restore provisions that were agreed to by the conferees to H.R. 2400, but were not included in the TEA-21 conference report1. Section 1405 of the Act amended chapter 1 of title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.), by adding Section 154, which established a transfer program under which a percentage of a state's Federal-aid highway construction funds will be transferred to the state's apportionment under Section 402 of Title 23 of the United States Code, if the state fails to enact and enforce a conforming Open Container law. The transferred funds are to be used for alcohol-impaired driving counter­measures or the enforcement of drinking and driving laws, or states may elect to use all or a portion of the funds for hazard elimination activities, under 23 U.S.C. Section 152. 

To avoid the transfer of funds, Section 154 requires that a state must enact and enforce a law that prohibits the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container, and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, in the passenger area of any motor vehicle (including possession or consumption by the driver of the vehicle) located on a public highway, or the right-of-way of a public highway, in the state.