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Legislator Really Wants to Make 'Road Beers' a Thing

The bill’s critics say that allowing open containers for passengers would increase the odds that the driver might start drinking, as well.
Photo via Flickr user Timo Newton-Syms

Man, it sucks when you're riding shotgun on the way back from the ol' fishin' hole and you can't crack a Bud Light until the truck has been parked in your buddy's driveway. That's the idea behind the so-called "road beer" bill that Montana state representative Daniel Zolnikov has proposed—and this has to be one of the first times that "a fishing hole" has been referenced in regard to a piece of legislation.


Zolnikov wants the state to allow passengers in a car to be able to drink while they're in the vehicle and, according to the Independent Record, he even listed his own personal Top Four Occasions when a Coors-loving co-pilot should be allowed to open a cold one: driving to that fishing hole, coming back from a day of hunting, after community baseball games, or after you help someone move "while setting up an event." (We're with him on that last one, especially if the event in question was the presidential inauguration).

He also says that the majority of Montanans are already enjoying passenger PBRs, so they might as well make it legal.

"Most Montanans I would say are already breaking a law with an open container anyway," he said, according to KGVO. "If you read the law, if you have an open container that is not in your trunk or locked in the glove box and it is sitting next to you, even if it is beers that have not been opened, wine that was previously open and closed again, anything along those lines, you can get an open container ticket."

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The bill's critics—which, unsurprisingly, include Mothers Against Drunk Driving—say that this would increase the odds that the driver might start drinking as well. Zolnikov is shaking his head and saying nuh-uh, arguing that it's no more tempting than being a designated driver who goes out to a bar. "Where is the self-responsibility?" he asked. "This isn't allowing for people to drink and drive, it's allowing a passenger to have a beer."

Montana changed its open-container law in 2005 to comply with federal regulations that strongly suggest that states should not allow booze in the passenger area of any vehicle, the Independent Record said. States that don't comply with these guidelines lose 2.5 percent of their annual federal highway aid, because the government requires them to spend that money on safety programs instead.

There are currently seven states that allow passengers in a vehicle to have open containers: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia and West Virginia. And Mississippi even allows drivers—DRIVERS!—to have a beer or two while they're behind the wheel, provided that they keep their blood alcohol level below the 0.08 legal limit. (We hate to go full cause-and-effect, but The Awl reports that Mississippi's annual number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities is almost double the national average).

The Road Beer Bill is probably a hard sell, especially in a state that is also above the national average for alcohol-related traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, 33 percent of Montana's traffic fatalities were alcohol-related deaths.

But we hear you, bro. A road beer does taste pretty damn good.