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State Lawmakers Want To Tighten Cap On Open Container Law By Including Passengers

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RALEIGH — State lawmakers are a step closer to putting a cap on North Carolina's open container law. The bill would ban drivers and passengers from having an open can of beer or bottle of wine in a car. Thestate Senatehas the choice of either approving the bill or risk losing millions in federal funding.

Durham firefighter Bruce Jacobs knows people cannot get behind the wheel with a beer in hand in North Carolina. However, he says passengers should not have to follow the same rules.

"I don't see a problem with open containers if you are not the driver," Jacobs says. "Passengers in the car should be able to do what they want to."

North Carolina lawmakers are considering a crackdown on passengers who want to drink, but everyone is not in agreement over the issue.

"There are some hard working citizens out here in North Carolina who might want to have a beer every now and then," saysSen. Frank Ballance, D-Warren. "They get in their car early in the morning and drive to Virginia to work in the shipyards and come back early in the evening and may want to drink a beer. Now they can't do that unless they can afford to buy a limousine."

Lisa Rist has two sons that will soon get behind the wheel of a car. She likes the idea of a tougher law.

"Well, I think it is definitely a benefit for safety," Rist says. "It is common sense that you don't want to have open alcohol in the car, certainly not for the driver but also not for other people in the car, especially teenagers who may influence the driver to drive less safely."

If lawmakers do not tighten the open container law by October 1, the state could lose more than $20 million in federal funding. A Senate committee passed the bill Wednesday. The bill will be discussed in front of the full Senate Thursday.

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Greg Clark, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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