Louisiana is being forced to spend a chunk of its federal
highway dollars on traffic safety because the state doesn’t have a ban on open
containers of alcohol in vehicles.
The state is one of only 14 nationwide that allows open
alcohol containers in vehicles; last year, that distinction pulled 3 percent
out of the highway construction budget and put it to other uses, according to a
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
installing cables to prevent crossover accidents and drunken driving
not designed as a punishment, but it is a transfer from one use to another,”
said Tim Hurd, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. “If safety is diminished by the fact they don’t have an
open-container law, some funds have to be used for enforcement programs or the
reduction of hazards.”
Louisiana law, drivers are prohibited from having an open alcoholic beverage,
but passengers are free to drink while in the vehicle.
bill – SB341 – sponsored by Sen. Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, would eliminate
the open container provision in state law, although exceptions would be made for
limousines, parade trucks and floats. It passed the Senate
38-0 April 19 and has been forwarded to the House.