Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has signed a bill into law that
holds drivers responsible for open containers of alcohol found in the passenger
sections of vehicles on public roadways in the state. The new rule also frees
up millions in federal dollars for improving Indiana roads.
Under the new law, which took effect July 1, passengers with
open containers would be fined up to $500. The driver wouldn’t necessarily be
fined – instead, it would be whoever an officer determined possessed the open
Vehicles do not need to be in motion for a violation to
Exceptions would be made for passengers in limousines and recreational vehicles.
Prior to the new
rule, passengers were allowed to drink in a vehicle so long as the driver’s
blood-alcohol content didn’t exceed 0.04 percent.
That rule, however,
didn’t meet federal guidelines for open container restrictions. As a result,
Indiana has been forced to spend a portion of its federal highway money on
traffic safety programs instead of on roadwork.
The federal government mandated in 2001 that states pass
stricter open container provisions or spend a percentage of federal highway
dollars on traffic safety programs.
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.
The new law, previously HB1057, will enable the state to use
that money for roads.