If You’re In A Car, Don’t Pop the Top.

open container lawsMany laws are designed to prevent dangerous behavior. Just as DUI legislation is meant to keep drinkers from getting behind the wheel, open container laws are passed to prevent drinking in public areas like parks, shopping malls, and streets. Like other alcohol laws, open container laws are imposed by individual states, so details vary.

At this time, 39 states in the US have open container laws: 11 states do not. There are also exceptions for certain cities and locations known for a party or entertainment culture: New Orleans, Louisiana and Las Vegas, Nevada are among places that allow people to drink on the streets.

Drinking in public areas is one thing; drinking in cars is another.

Since an open beer or wine bottle in a car could present a dangerous temptation to some drivers, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century was created to set down rules for the banning of alcohol in vehicles. The TEA-21 rules include:

  • banning open alcohol containers and the drinking of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle
  • banning alcohol in readily accessible parts of the car, including unlocked glove compartments

The law applies to all alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and spirits that contain a half-percent of alcohol or more.

States do not have to comply with this federal law, but if they do not, they lose roadway funding. For this reason, all but eleven states ban open alcohol containers in vehicles.

One thing to note: those eleven states allow passengers to drink in the car — not drivers.