Effort to ban open containers dies in Mississippi

| 1/31/2007

A bill in the Mississippi Senate that sought to ban consumption and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways has died. The bill would also have freed up millions in federal dollars for improving roads.

Sponsored by Sen. Richard White, R-Terry, the bill remained in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, Jan. 30 – the deadline to advance to the chamber floor – effectively killing it.

Under state law, drivers are prohibited from having an open alcoholic beverage, but passengers 21 years of age or older are free to drink while in a moving vehicle.

The bill – SB2045 – would have eliminated the open container provision.

Violators would have faced fines between $100 and $200. Any local ordinances that include more stringent restrictions would still have applied.

Exceptions would have been made for passengers in campers or motor homes, buses, taxis or limousines.

Mississippi is being forced to spend a portion 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 pass the provision 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.