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Legislator to push change to Open Container bill

Posted By Clarksville Online News Staff On Saturday, February 28, 2009 @ 5:00 am In News,Politics | 3 Comments

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Representative Jon Lundberg

Rep. Jon Lundberg to push Open Container bill that would ban  not just drivers but passengers  from having “open containers” (alcohol) while driving/

NASHVILLE – Representative Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) will once again appear before the Local Government Subcommittee to fight for passage of the “Pass the Bottle” legislation, which would ban open containers in vehicles. Currently, no driver may consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of such while operating a motor vehicle, but passengers may consume alcohol. Lundberg says this policy invites drivers to drink as long as there is a passenger to which they can “pass the bottle.”

The bill has experienced resistance last year as it moved through the committee system, with members expressing concern over the ability of sober drivers to take friends home who are drinking, and also regarding sporting events, such as University of Tennessee football games. Ultimately, however, members of the State and Local Government Committee came around, only for the bill to fail in Budget Subcommittee due to budget restraints. Lundberg says passage this year is crucial, because he believes the law will save lives.

Lundberg said that, being from East Tennessee, he understands the concerns that the committee members had last year, but that safety had to come first. “The bottom line is that this state must reform our drunk driving laws. There must be consequences for irresponsible actions—actions that kill and that put other law abiding citizens in grave danger,” he added.

If passed, the proposal would free up a portion of federal funds that could be used for roads. Currently, the state misses out on millions in federal funding that could be used for projects such as improvement measures, new roads, and bridges.

In 2006, there were 1,287 fatalities on Tennessee roads with 509 due to alcohol-related crashes, a 7.6 percent increase from the previous year.  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among persons between the ages of 3 and 33, with 50% of the victims being in alcohol-related crashes.  In addition, fifty-two percent of drivers that were involved in alcohol-related fatalities had BAC levels at or above .16.

“Our national highway experts have rightfully pointed out the flaws in our DUI laws. We fall short of half of their recommendations.  That is unacceptable. We will work hard to make sure our roads are safer than this,” concluded Rep. Lundberg.

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