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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


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.
 DOT HS 809 426
2. Government Accession No.
3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Open Container Laws and Alcohol Involved Crashes: Some Preliminary Data

5. Report Date
April 2002
6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Jack Stuster, PhD; Marcelline Burns, PhD; and Dary Fiorentino, MA

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Anacapa Sciences, Inc.
P.O. Box 519
Santa Barbara, CA 93102

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590

13. Type of Report and Period Covered
NHTSA Technical Report
14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes

Paul J. Tremont, PhD was the Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) for this project.

16. Abstract

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, signed into law on 9 June 1998, and amended by a technical corrections bill, entitled the TEA-21 Restora­tion Act, P.L. 105-206, on 22 July 1998. The TEA-21 Restora­tion Act established a program to encourage states to enact and enforce open container laws that conform to a Federal Standard. States without conforming Open Container laws are subject to a transfer of highway construction funds. 

Four states passed legislation in 1999 in response to the TEA-21 Restora­tion Act (Iowa, Maine, Rhode Island, and South Dakota). Analyses indicated that three of the four states appeared to decline in their proportions of alcohol-involved fatal crashes during the first six months after enforce­ment of the conforming laws; however, the declines were not statistically significant. 

In addition to the before and after analyses, crash data (from 1999) were compared among states that have had fully-conforming laws since the enactment of the TEA-21 Restoration Act on July 22, 1998; states that enacted fully-conforming laws as of October 1, 2000, the date on which the first transfer of funds took effect; states that had partially-conforming laws as of October 1, 2000; and, states that had no Open Container laws at all, as of October 1, 2000. This analysis showed that states without Open Container Laws experienced significantly greater proportions of alcohol-involved fatal crashes than states with partially-conforming or fully-conforming laws. Also, it was noted that survey data show support for Open Container laws by a substantial majority of the general public, even in states without such laws.

17. Key Words

Traffic Safety, Transportation Equity Act, TEA-21, Open Container Law, Alcohol, DWI, DUI

18. Distribution Statement

This document is available to the public from National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia 22160.

19. Security Classif. (of this report)


20. Security Classif. (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price
Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized

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