Gov. Brian Schweitzer has signed a
bill into law that outlaws drinking by motor vehicle passengers in Montana. It
takes effect this fall.
Under current Montana 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 new law, previously SB80,
eliminates the provision by banning consumption and possession of open
containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways.
Exceptions would be made for
passengers in campers, motor homes, buses, taxis or limousines.
Montana Highway Patrol Lt. Col.
Mike Tooley told the Missoulian authorities would spend the summer
educating motorists on the new law. Starting Oct. 1, violators will receive
tickets for as much as $100. No points would be added to a driver’s license and
insurance companies cannot hike drivers’ rates if they are convicted of an open
The effort to ban open containers
of alcohol in vehicles was spurred by the federal government’s mandate that
states pass such provisions 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.
In the past two years, Montana was
forced to divert $5.6 million of federal highway money.
Mississippi now is the only state
that doesn’t have some kind of open container law, the newspaper reported.
Thirty-nine states, including
Montana, have open container laws that meet the federal standard. Nine others
have container laws that fall short of the federal order.