Some states still lack open container laws

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Not all states have open container laws, but that isn't a license to drive wasted. Photo Credit: DarkKomodo/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Believe it or not, not all states have provisions against drinking while driving. Every state has provisions of driving under the influence of alcohol, rest assured, but not every state has legislated against consuming while behind the wheel, typically known as open container laws.

Open container laws vary by state but are usually the same

The phrase “drinking and driving,” or rather the way most people use it, is a misnomer. What people mean is “drinking, then driving” or as the law refers to it, “driving under the influence of alcohol,” also known as DUI.

Who or what to blame for the omission of “then,” a simple adverb, is unknown; then again, one only needs take to Facebook and observe how most people use “your” and “you’re” to see how abysmally pathetic the average American is regarding grammar that’s taught at the elementary school level.

Perhaps it’s genetic, maybe something is in the water.

That aside, every state in the union has laws regarding driving under the influence. However, according to Car and Driver, open container laws, which regard open containers of alcoholic beverages, are another matter.

Please avoid being a dummy

Just because the law varies in a few states isn’t an excuse to be stupid. In most states, 39 to be precise, no open containers of alcohol, meaning beer, wine, spirits, possibly even O’Douls so don’t chance it, are legally permitted. In Washington state, according to Jalopnik, it’s also a crime to try to disguise one. Don’t push your luck; if you think regular car loan payoff is bad, ask someone about fines and insurance premiums after a DUI.

If it’s open and a police officer sees it, fines and jail will ensue. It will be your fault because you broke the law and you deserve it. Then insurance premiums will be so high that one will have to beg a cheap used car dealers in Spokane or wherever to finance a 1990 Geo Metro, because that’s all the car one can afford.

The skinny

In those remaining 11 states, there is some variation. In six states, Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware and Mississippi, there are no open container laws. In Alaska and Wyoming, open containers are permitted only if the vehicle is parked. Tennessee and Virginia prohibit drivers from having an open container, but not passengers, explicitly. However, Virginia law allows officers to peer into said containers and if they have been consumed from, the driver can be cited.

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Louisiana has the curious “Daiquiri Exemption,” which allows open containers of frozen alcoholic drinks, so long as a lid is on, a straw is not in it and it hasn’t been drunk from. Also, any container that is not clearly marked as being an alcoholic beverage container is not probable cause for an officer to stop a person.

Prose and cons

As Jalopnik points out, there is a rationale to why some states wouldn’t have open container laws. If a person is acting as the “designated driver,” just because passengers keep boozing while the driver is driving doesn’t mean the driver is any less sober.

However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is an equally good reason for laws forbidding open containers, namely that alcohol-related crashes and fatalities are lower in states that prohibit them.


Car and Driver



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