Stricter open container provision advances in Wyoming

| Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An effort to toughen the open container law in Wyoming is winning wide support from state lawmakers.

Senators voted 25-5 in February to advance a bill to ban the consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways in the state. A few days later, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send it to the full House for further consideration.

Under Wyoming law, drivers are barred from having an open container of alcohol, but passengers 21 years of age or older are not. Supporters say the current rules are difficult to enforce because drivers can just hand the container to passengers if pulled over.

Similar bills passed the state’s House two years in a row, only to be beaten back in the Senate.

In 2005, senators approved the bill first then sent it to the House. There, several changes were made to the original version and lawmakers in both chambers were unable to reach a compromise, which killed the bill.

This year’s version – SF36 – addresses one of the main points of contention from a year ago. It requires open containers in RVs to be locked up in cabinets or compartments.

If approved by legislators, it would free up millions in federal dollars for improving Wyoming roads.

The state is being forced to spend $5.2 million of its federal highway money on traffic safety because the state doesn’t have a ban on open containers of alcohol in vehicles.

The federal government mandated in 2001 that states either pass open container laws 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.

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