My question is a fairly simple one, but consists of multiple clauses:

  • Is it legal for you to drink in a car if you are not the person driving it?
  • Is there (and if there is, what is it) a difference if the vehicle is a taxi or limousine, meaning the driver is paid for service?
  • Is there a difference among different States in the US regarding this?

On a personal note, I don't see the problem with drinking if you are not the one who's driving. I guess the laws regarding this (if exists) were written because they are worried that drivers will be more likely to drink themselves if they see people drinking right next to them.

2 Answers 2


Wikipedia says:

Open containers in vehicles

Prohibition of Open Containers of Alcohol in Motor Vehicles as of 2009 To comply with the TEA-21 rules of the federal Department of Transportation, a state's motor vehicle open container laws must:

  • Prohibit both possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and consumption of any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle;
  • Cover the passenger area of any motor vehicle, including unlocked glove compartments and any other areas of the vehicle that are readily accessible to the driver or passengers while in their seats;
  • Apply to all open alcoholic beverage containers and all alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and spirits that contain one-half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume;
  • Apply to all vehicle occupants except for passengers of vehicles designed, maintained or used primarily for the transportation of people for compensation (such as buses, taxi cabs, and limousines) or the living quarters of motor homes;
  • Apply to all vehicles on a public highway or the right-of-way (i.e. on the shoulder) of a public highway;
  • Require primary enforcement of the law, rather than requiring probable cause that another violation had been committed before allowing enforcement of the open container law.

Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia are in compliance. Alaska, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming have similar limits on the possession of open containers in vehicles, but not to the level of TEA-21 compliance.


  • Open container not allowed in vehicle, even if it's a passenger using it.
  • Exception for buses, taxis, limos.
  • There may be differences in some states.
  • 2
    It's also possible that there are municipalities that enforce their alcohol restrictions on people in vehicles.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:26

In New South Wales, Australia the answer is a passenger in a private vehicle can drink alcohol. It is illegal to have an open container of alcohol on public transport. Strangely, it is illegal to consume any food or drink in a taxi except water.


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