Stricter open container rule now in effect in Wyoming

| 7/2/2007

A new Wyoming law that took effect Sunday, July 1, toughens the state’s open container law.

The new rule bans consumption of alcohol and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling highways in the state. Until now, many communities in the state already banned open containers, but they remained legal on state highways.

To this point, state law barred drivers from having an open container of alcohol, but passengers 21 years of age or older were not. Supporters say those rules were difficult to enforce because drivers could just hand a container to passengers if they were pulled over.

The new law also requires open containers in RVs to be locked up in cabinets or compartments. Exceptions are included for passengers in buses and limousines.

Other than the anticipated benefits to safety on roadways, the law is not strict enough as written to free up millions in federal dollars for improving Wyoming roads.

The state is being forced to spend millions of its federal highway money on traffic safety because the state doesn’t have a ban on open containers of alcohol in vehicles. In 2006, the state was forced to divert $5.6 million from roads.

The federal government mandated in 2001 that states either pass open container laws or spend a percentage of federal highway dollars on public safety projects such as drunken driving checkpoints and installing cables in medians to prevent crossover accidents. Wyoming is one of six states that don’t meet federal compliance.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor