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Open container laws and passengers in a vehicle

Alcohol use is common in contemporary society, but there are also legal restrictions regarding when and where alcohol may be consumed. One of the primary places where alcohol cannot be consumed in most situations is in a standard passenger vehicle with only a front and back seat or seating for two passengers, including a driver. The laws regarding drinking while driving are basic and reasonable, but there are also grey areas in the law in some states regarding passenger drinking. Restrictions on passenger drinking generally apply in Georgia but can be exempt in some types of vehicles.

Open container laws in general

The underlying reason for open container laws has nothing to do with passengers drinking. The problem is the proximity of a driver to hand a drink to a passenger in an attempt to avoid a DUI. It is primarily unlawful for a driver to drink alcohol while a vehicle is in motion. However, the law may technically not apply to some recreational vehicles and motor homes.


While Georgia is fully compliant with the federal TEA-21 requirements regarding open container laws, not all states have consistent laws. Some states such as Tennessee alter the open container laws for tourism purposes. Most states are totally compliant because the federal government has tied the law to the availability of road upgrade funding. Mississippi is the only state left in the U.S. that still allows drivers to drink alcohol while in transit as long as they are under the BAC limit for impaired driving.

All drivers in Georgia should be aware that the state places responsibility for any activity inside a vehicle on the driver. This means that drivers will be cited when passengers are found with open alcohol containers in a driver-controlled area of any vehicle.