Open container ban advances in Montana

| 2/1/2005

The Montana Senate has approved a bill that would ban consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways.

Under state law, drivers are prohibited from having an open alcoholic beverage, but passengers 21 years of age or older are free to drink while in a moving vehicle.

Senate lawmakers voted 45-5 on Jan. 31 to forward the bill to the House for consideration. The bill, SB80, sponsored by Sen. Gary Perry, R-Manhattan, would eliminate the open container provision.

Violators would be fined up to $100. No points would be added to a driver’s license.

Exceptions would be made for passengers in campers, motor homes, buses, taxis or limousines.

Montana is being forced to spend a portion of its federal highway money on traffic safety because the state doesn’t have a ban on open containers of alcohol in vehicles.

The federal government mandated in 2001 that states pass the provision 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.

This year, the total is expected to reach $6 million if the provision fails to pass.