Every half hour, someone in the United States is killed in an alcohol-related crash. Because of unsettling statistics like this, one year ago Texas became the 34th state in the country to make open containers of alcohol illegal in motor vehicles. So, whatever happened to that law? Is it being enforced? And is it helping to cut down on alcohol related crashes? It may have just hit the books a year ago, but Department of Public Safety troopers believe the new open container law has already had enormous benefits.
What was legal a year ago, is now illegal. Cracking a cold one in the car, no matter where you are sitting, can get you into some serious trouble. "Now we have a law that says an open container is a violation, period," says Corporal John Gonzalez with the Department of Public Safety.
On September 1, 2001, Texas passed a law making it illegal for you to have any open alcoholic beverage in the car while you are driving. Open meaning, a popped top or broken seal. In the law's first nine months, DPS troopers issued more than 9,000 tickets. And while it is a little too early to tell just how effective the law has been in Texas, in other states it has proven to be a deterrent in drinking and driving and has even lowered alcohol related crashes.
"That's the whole point of this. To make a decision that when you go to the strip, you don't open up and you're not drinking when you're going down the roadway," says Gonzalez. It is a law that has few drawbacks and very little opposition. Most seem to agree it's only weakness is the fact that, like many laws, it's not always followed and tough to control. Especially among younger adults and teens.
"They're so tempted and if they don't go along with their friends, their peer group pressure is tremendous, they will do it," says Gloria Riojas, a parent and advocate of the law. Corporal Gonzalez agrees, but he says the DPS will do everything it can to make sure it doesn't happen. "The law has been publicized. People know, they're aware. We would just encourage them not to do it," says Gonzalez.