The Tennessee General Assembly returns to work this week and will soon take up debate on bills that were either put off or sent to study committees in the first part of the legislative session. One of these is a bill that has been stalled in committee for too many years now.
We believe it’s time for state lawmakers to stop passing the buck and approve the “Pass the Bottle” bill.
While no driver may drink alcohol or possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle in Tennessee, passengers are allowed under state law to consume booze in that very same vehicle. This loophole allows a driver to simply pass the bottle to a passenger if he or she is stopped by a law enforcement officer.
The leading argument against the legislation is that it would infringe on the rights of University of Tennessee fans who wish to enjoy a cocktail (while being driven by a sober friend) to a football game in Knoxville. That’s hardly a valid reason for state lawmakers to ignore the dangers of drinking and driving.
Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, is once again sponsoring a bill to ban open containers. He believes the measure could save as many as 24 lives annually. The bill has been endorsed by sheriffs, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
Lundberg has appeared to be close to passing the bill several times in recent years, only to see the legislation sent to a study committee. The move has been a successful stall tactic on the part of opponents who are apparently indifferent to sobering statistics that show more than 1,100 Tennesseans die annually in alcohol-related auto crashes.