An Arkansas House panel rejected a proposal that would
prohibit passengers in vehicles from riding with open containers of alcohol.
State law now prohibits drivers from having an open
alcoholic beverage, but passengers over 21 are free to drink while in the
The bill, offered by Rep. Shirley Borhauer, R-Bella Vista,
wouldn’t apply to passengers in taxis, limousines and other “for hire” transportation.
During the House Rules Committee meeting Jan. 19, several
lawmakers said they had problems with the bill, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.
“Up in my part of the country, a lot of fellas, after work
or whatever, will be (drinking) on the backroads and gravel roads and wherever
else, and occasionally they’ll put those open containers in the back of their
pickup. Is this prohibited?” asked Rep. Wayne Nichols, D-Marked Tree.
Borhauer said she thought the bill – HB1069 – would prohibit
open containers thrown into the bed of pickups.
Rep. Bob Mathis, D-Hot Springs, asked about open bottles of
some mouthwashes, which contain alcohol.
“Yes, if you’re drinking it,” Borhauer said.
Later, Randy Ort, spokesman for the state Highway and
Transportation Department, said the state has been restricted in how it can
spend about $21 million since 2001. That’s when the federal government began
penalizing states that didn’t have open container laws. Ort said the state is
required to spend a portion of its federal highway money on safety projects
such as installing cables to prevent crossover accidents and drunken driving
A similar bill in
2003 failed to make it out of committee. Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said
at the time that such a law is unnecessary because it’s drunk drivers, not
passengers, who cause harm.