For many, summer is a time to finally embark on the Great American Road Trip. There’s something nostalgic about cracking the roadmap and inching along the interstate, town by town, landmark by landmark. Maybe you’ve even rented an RV for the occasion, scouting campgrounds and hotels across the nation. At some point, your friends in back decide to have a few beers. This is when things get complicated, especially if you’re driving within Oklahoma state lines.
Open container laws are not uniform
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) offers incentives for states regarding open alcohol containers. If a state meets the certain TEA-21 criteria, they receive incentives from the federal government in the form of road funding and other things. Those criteria are:
- Prohibit any open alcohol containers in a moving vehicle, period.
- Prohibit any occupants from consuming or having alcohol (this includes passengers of RVs).
- These apply to all public highways/shoulders of public highways.
- Police can enforce open containers laws, regardless of other violations.
If a state decides not to take part in the TEA-21 guidelines, a percentage of their annual roadway funds goes to alcohol education resources.
The laws vary by state (and they’re continually changing)
If you happen to be taking your RV across Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia or West Virginia, and your friends are enjoying a beer in the back, current laws say you might be okay.
Other states (Alaska, Louisiana, Tennessee and Wyoming) have only partly adopted TEA-21.
In Mississippi, you can drink and drive, so long as they stay under the blood alcohol limit of .08%.
However, within every state (including Mississippi), each city and county can enforce their own open alcohol container laws.
Now, back to you and your friends in Oklahoma
Bottom line: It’s unlawful to knowingly transport an open alcohol container while operating a moving vehicle in Oklahoma. This applies to any intoxicating beverage, including low-point beer. The only exceptions in the state of Oklahoma: trunk or separate/rear/any outside compartment not accessible to drivers or passengers, “party buses” or chauffeur-driven limousines. That’s it.
What all this boils down to is this: Given that open alcohol container laws vary by state, and by city and county within each state, and given that the laws are constantly changing, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t transport open alcohol containers, plain and simple. The penalties can be severe and costly.