East Tennessee Rep. Jon Lundberg is attempting to pass a “pass the bottle” bill that would overrule the current open container law and ban passengers in cars from drinking alcohol.
In an interview with WATE.com, Lundberg points out Tennessee currently loses up to $12 million per year in funding transportation because they currently lack this law. “Because we lose that money, we can’t spend it on building roads, fixing bridges,” said Lundberg. “It brings back dollars at a time when we’re talking about raising taxes to pay for the things this could do.”
Abdul Alamani from Knoxville agreed. “The driver, he might be tempted,” Alamani said. “Might be a bad example for the kids and what have you,” in fact, the city of Knoxville has already passed a law banning open containers for passengers.
With this law, there would be some exceptions to the rule, such as allowing passengers to drink in commercial transportation such as taxis and limos, and if the bill passes, the offence would end up being classified as a misdemeanor.
The current law only bans drivers from drinking or having open containers. It defines an open container as “any container containing alcoholic beverages or beer, the contents of which are immediately capable of being consumed or the seal of which has been broken.”
Additionally, it clarifies that “An open container is in the possession of the driver when it is not in the possession of any passenger and is not located in a closed glove compartment, trunk or other non-passenger area of the vehicle.”
This law, therefore, would essentially eliminate the section that says “The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit any municipality, by ordinance, or any county, by resolution, from prohibiting the passengers in a motor vehicle from consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage or beer in an open container during the operation of such vehicle by its driver, or be construed to limit the penalties authorized by law for violation of such an ordinance or resolution.”
The TN General Assembly is currently convening, so it remains to be seen if Lundberg’s bill will pass.