Montana’s attempt to outlaw drinking by motor vehicle
passengers is closer to becoming law.
House lawmakers have approved a bill that would ban alcohol
consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling
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.
The House voted 78-18 on March 4 to forward the bill – HB91
– to the Senate for further consideration. A similar bill passed the Senate at
the end of January, 45-5.
Sponsored by Rep. Christopher Harris, D-Bozeman, and Sen.
Gary Perry, R-Manhattan, the bills would eliminate the open container
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.
The effort to ban open containers of alcohol in vehicles is
spurred by the federal government’s mandate 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
This year, that would mean $6 million less for Montana roads
if the open-container provision fails to pass.
Perry’s bill – SB80 – is almost identical to Harris’ except
it specifies that insurance companies cannot hike drivers’ rates if they are
convicted of an open container violation. The bill also states that violating
the law does not constitute a criminal offense.
It is in the House Judiciary Committee.