Open containers of alcohol in vehicles still legal in Delaware

| 7/12/2007

A bid to make roadways safer in Delaware came up short in the recently completed regular session.

State law now bars drivers from having an open container of alcohol, but passengers 21 years of age or older do not face the same ban.

The state Senate failed to take up a bill – HB20 – before the session ended July 1 that would have banned consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling highways in the state. House lawmakers previously approved the bill by a 28-13 margin.

Exceptions to the rule were included for passengers in RVs, fifth-wheel recreational trailers, buses, limousines and taxis.

Violators would have faced $50 fines. Offenders would not have had points added to their licenses.

Supporters said the current rules are difficult to enforce because drivers can just hand an open container to passengers if pulled over. Opponents said police have enough tools to combat drinking and driving, such as breathalyzers and field sobriety tests.

Delaware is only one of a few states that allow open alcohol containers in vehicles. This year, that distinction is expected to force the state to pull $2.7 million out of the highway construction budget and put it to other uses, The Associated Press reported.

The federal government mandated in 2001 that states either pass open container laws or spend a percentage of federal highway dollars on traffic safety projects such as installing cables to prevent crossover accidents and drunken driving checkpoints.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Delaware in 2007, click here.