Stricter open container provision fails in Wyoming

| 3/21/2006

An effort to toughen the open container law in Wyoming died again. And again.

House lawmakers voted twice on whether to ban the consumption of alcohol and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways in the state.

The first vote of 30-28 was one vote short of the majority needed for passage in the 60-member chamber. After the House decided to reconsider the matter, a second vote also fell one vote shy. The Senate previously approved the bill by a 25-5 margin.

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. Opponents said the state’s current rules work just fine.

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

In 2005, the Senate 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 – addressed one of the main points of contention from a year ago. It required open containers in RVs to be locked up in cabinets or compartments.

Failure to approve the stricter open container rule will prohibit the state from using all of its designated federal dollars for improving roads.

The state is being forced to spend $4 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 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported.

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.