Sunday, March 3, 2024

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Missouri’s Open Container Law Has Surprising Results

Missouri has not criminalized open containers of alcohol in vehicles on state roads. The result has surprised some safety experts. Instead of an increase in highway motor vehicle fatalities, Missouri’s roads have become safer. They have become safer than other states.

Federal dollars earmarked for road construction have been forced to be re-allocated toward highway safety projects in Missouri. The federal government attaches strings to its spending measures. Missouri has not complied. Missouri’s gamble has paid off.

The current penalty Missouri incurs from the federal government requires that 2.5% of highway dollars provided must be redirected toward safety projects. This equals approximately $22.7 million per year. Around $17 million of that goes to infrastructure improvements like guard cables and rumble strips. The funding has gone to safety features on major roadways including I-70.
The remaining $5.7 million is spent on behavior focused campaigns. DWI enforcement and media campaigns promoting safer driving have been the beneficiaries.

Missouri’s spending on road safety features, DWI enforcement, and media campaigns warning against the dangers of drunk driving seem to have resulted in better than average safety statistics compared to the nation at large. Safer roads with greater personal liberty has been a win.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that between 2001 and 2019, traffic fatalities across the country have decreased by 14%. During the same time, traffic fatalities in Missouri decreased by nearly 20%.

Perhaps Missouri roads would be safer if Missouri’s highway spending was coupled with a different law regarding open containers of alcohol, but no research currently exists to make that conclusion. What is clear is that Missouri is doing something right- and Missouri’s program is leading to safer roads and lives saved.

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