Open container law diverts millions from Missouri routes



Missouri’s decision to allow open containers of alcohol in vehicles forces the state to divert millions of federal dollars from road construction into safety programs, according to a report on public radio.

The state’s policy of allowing passengers to drink in moving vehicles violates federal safety laws. As a result of the breach, Missouri has transferred about $ 370 million in freeway construction funds to safety programs since 2001, KCUR-FM reported.

Congress established federal standards banning open alcohol containers in 1998.

“It’s an interesting dilemma because it takes money away from what I’ll call our daily roads and bridges projects,” says Jon Nelson, assistant to the Missouri Highway and Traffic Safety Engineer. Department of Transportation. “But it’s still being spent on the pavement thanks to these safety improvements.”

In recent years, Missouri has diverted between 1.5% and 3% of its construction money for safety programs, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Currently, the penalty is 2.5%, or about $ 22.7 million per year.

About $ 17 million is spent on improving infrastructure, such as protective cables and rough tapes. Nelson said the funding paid for most of the safety features on major highways like Interstate 70.

The remaining $ 5.7 million is used for behavioral campaigns, primarily the application of DWI and DWI media campaigns.

Federal accident data suggests that safety spending may have improved safety on Missouri roads.

Between 2001 and 2019, the number of road fatalities across the country fell by 14%. But during the same period, the number of road fatalities in Missouri fell by nearly 20%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Experts say allowing passengers to drink in vehicles can lead to several safety concerns.

“Safety improvements save lives, but you also need to be able to think about the impact of the policy itself on the cause of these behaviors in the first place,” says Nelson.

Advocates point to data that indicates Missouri lags behind other states in reducing drink-driving. A 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 2.2% of adults in Missouri reported driving after drinking too much, higher than the national rate of 1.7%.

CDC data also shows that in 2018, Missouri had an alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate of 3.9 deaths per 100,000, compared to 3.2 per 100,000 nationally.

In addition to allowing open containers, Missouri lawmakers in 2017 reimbursed sobriety checkpoints. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has not conducted sobriety checkpoints since 2017.

Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Brown said the patrol catches intoxicated drivers with patrols and DWI overloads.

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving group wants Missouri to do more to prevent drunk driving, starting by enforcing open container policies and reinstating sobriety checkpoints.

“Right now, Missouri is behind in our impaired driving prevention, in terms of what our officers are capable of doing on the road,” said regional general manager Allyson Summers.


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