P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2001
AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate today approved legislation sponsored by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to expand the open container law and strengthen penalties for repeat DWI offenders. The bill, which now goes to Governor Perry's desk, brings Texas in line with federal guidelines tied to Texas' share of federal highway construction dollars.
"I object to the federal government attaching any strings of any kind to our highway dollars, but this is the right thing to do, and that is the reason we need this legislation. We have the worst traffic safety record in the nation, and this bill will prevent tragedies on our roadways," Senator Nelson said.
Already, the federal government has diverted $43 million of Texas' highway dollars into restricted-use accounts set aside for alcohol safety education. Another $43 million would have been diverted in October, and that figure will double starting in 2002 had this legislation failed. Current transportation budget levels are meeting an estimated 36 percent of Texas' identified transportation needs.
Under current law, police officers must observe the driver consume alcohol to issue an open container citation. This bill (HB 5) requires that:
- Driver's licenses be automatically suspended on the second DWI conviction. Current law calls for a suspension of 180 days to 2 years.
- Ignition locking devices be installed on offender's vehicle the year after suspension is lifted.
- Occupants of a motor vehicle can be cited if in the passenger area of a vehicle, police find an open container of alcohol. Under current law, only the driver can be cited, and police must observe the driver consuming alcohol.
- Exceptions are made for passengers in motor homes, limousines and other vehicles used for the transportation of people for compensation.
- Open container citations are Class C misdemeanors punishable by a fine up to $500.