Indiana outlaws open containers in vehicles

| 7/18/2005

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 container.

Vehicles do not need to be in motion for a violation to exist.

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.