Bill takes aim at Connecticut open container policy

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HARTFORD — A new bill is working its way through the state legislature that would change Connecticut’s so-called “open container” laws.

Right now, it’s legal for passengers in cars to have (and drink from) open containers of alcohol, but that would end if Proposed House Bill 6588 is passed.

The bill was proposed by Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, D-Newtown, who wrote in his testimony: “This bill is a significant piece of legislation to further reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and damages resulting from drivers operating under the influence of alcohol.”

For William Church the proposed legislation hits home.

Church’s son Dustin was killed by a drunk driver in 2004.

“Everything changed for our family,” Church said in his written testimony, “There would be no graduation to attend, no wedding ceremony, no grandchildren for us to enjoy.”

Church said he is in favor of any legislation “that would help reduce the possibility of any family suffering as we have.”

Church cited a study that found a 5.1 percent decrease in fatal crash rates in states that have open container laws.

The bill is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Connecticut.

“We send a clear message when we say that vehicles are not to be used as rolling bars — that drinking should be done separately from driving,” MADD CT executive director Heggie Margolis said in her written testimony in support of the bill.

Some lawmakers are questioning 6588’s possible effectiveness of cutting down on drunk driving.

Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, said, “I’m not saying I’m against this, I’m saying there are issues with it,” the Hartford Courant reported.

Rep. Guerrera noted that people going out might choose a designated driver and if the driver acts responsibly, the passengers’ decision to drink wouldn’t be a danger, he said, according to the Courant.

Rep. Bolinsky’s testimony said that Connecticut is one of 11 states without an open container law. He hopes Connecticut can join the 40 other states who have “already enacted federally compliant laws to deal with this drinking and driving behavior.”

The proposal would ban all vehicle passengers from possessing or consuming any alcoholic beverage. The proposal would have an exception for open containers of alcohol possessed by passengers of commercial vehicles like taxis, party buses and limousines.

According to DrivingLaws.org, under Mississippi law drivers are also free to drink alcohol while driving as long as the driver’s blood alcohol concentration remains below .08 percent.

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