The Indiana General Assembly has
approved a bill that would hold drivers responsible for open containers of
alcohol found in the passenger sections of vehicles traveling public roadways.
The bill would also free up millions in federal dollars for improving Indiana
Senators voted 42-6 April 28 to
approve the bill; the House passed it 77-15 a day earlier. HB1057 now moves to
Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature.
Under the bill, passengers with
open containers could be fined up to $500. The driver wouldn’t necessarily be
fined – instead, it would be whoever an officer determined possessed the open
Exceptions would be made for
passengers in limousines
and recreational vehicles.
Indiana law allows passengers to drink alcohol in a vehicle so long as the
driver’s blood-alcohol content doesn’t exceed 0.04 percent.
however, does not meet federal guidelines for open container restrictions. As a
result, Indiana is being forced to spend a portion of its federal highway money
on traffic safety programs.
The federal government mandated in
2001 that states pass stricter provisions on open containers or spend a
percentage of federal highway dollars on public safety projects.
This year, the lax law cost
Indiana $1.6 million in road funding, and an additional $15.6 million that had
to be diverted for projects such as drunken driving checkpoints and installing
cables in medians to prevent crossover accidents, The Indianapolis Star reported. The state has diverted $65 million from roads since fiscal year 2001.
If signed into law, the stricter
provision would take effect July 1.