Stricter open container provision advances in Wyoming

| Monday, January 29, 2007

An effort to toughen the open container law in Wyoming is halfway through the statehouse.

Senators voted 26-3 to advance a bill to ban the consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways in the state. The bill has been forwarded to the 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. The past two years, senators approved the effort only to see talks break down in the House, effectively killing it.

This year’s version – SF33 – addresses one of the main points of contention. It requires open containers in RVs to be locked up in cabinets or compartments.

Supporters are hopeful their latest attempt will make it through the statehouse after the issue received a mention in Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s State of the State speech, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. Public opinion polls also show substantial support for the bill.

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

The state is being forced to spend millions 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.

Ross’ bill is awaiting assignment to committee in the House.

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