Mississippi bills focus on open containers, headlights

| 2/14/2008

A bill in the Mississippi Senate would ban consumption of alcohol and possession of open containers of alcohol in vehicles traveling public roadways in the state. The bill would also free up millions in federal dollars for improving roads.

Another bill would require drivers to use their headlights during bad weather.

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

Sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, the bill would eliminate the open container provision. Violators would face fines up to $25. No points would be added to driver’s licenses.

Exceptions would be 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.

Another bill would mandate a practice that is second nature to most truck drivers and other veterans of the road. The legislation would permit police to ticket drivers who fail to flip on their headlights during bad weather.

Sponsored by Rep. Gregory Holloway, D-Hazlehurst, the bill would require lights to be on “whenever conditions necessitate the use of windshield wipers.” Drivers also would be required to have their headlights on from sunset to sunrise.

Violators would face a $25 fine.

Holloway’s bill – HB97 – is in the House Transportation Committee. Fillingane’s bill – SB2242 – is in the Senate Judiciary B committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor