You can’t have failed to see the huge growth in the non alcoholic beer world. Shelf space is being taken over and i cant tell you from sampling just about every one i can buy, they are great. However, many people are very new to the space and have some legitimate questions. One of the big ones is “can you drink non alcoholic beer and drive?”, will you get a DUI?
Right at the start of this article, i would like to point out that i am not in favour of drinking alcohol and driving, as long as you keep under the legal limit. You will still be impaired but legally allowed to drive. The safest action is always to abstain from alcohol if you have to drive.
Can you drink non alcoholic beer and drive?
You can drink up to 40 non alcoholic beers and still be legally allowed to drive if you are an over 21, non commercial driver. The average 160lb adult male would be legally drunk after drinking 40 non alcoholic beers over a couple of hours so it would be very hard if not impossible to get a DUI after drinking non alcoholic beer.
What is the legal drunk diving limit?
In all states in the USA (except Utah), the legal drunk driving limit is 0.08% blood alcohol concentration. Utah is 0.05%.
I know this figure and how it is described is probably meaningless to a lot of readers so we can break it down a bit further and find out what it really means.
The drunk driving blood alcohol concentration is actually the same to just be legally classed as drunk or intoxicated so it is relatively easy to work out how many beers you need to drink to get to that point.
How many alcoholic beers before you cant drive?
If the drunk driving limit is the same as when you are legally drunk we just need to work out that number for both.
What is a standard beer?
The first thing is to work from a “standard” beer. Obviously beers come in all shapes, sizes and strengths but the USDA have stated what a standard beer, wine and spirit are. They all have the same amount of alcohol but different volumes and concentrations
|Drink and volume||Alcohol content|
|12fl oz Beer||5%|
|5fl oz Wine||12%|
|1.5fl oz Spirit||40%|
A standard beer is a 5%, 12fl oz can.
The CDC tell us that the average 160lb adult male (is 160lb average by the way?!) needs to drink x4 12fl oz cans of 5% ABV beer (standard beers) to get drunk. Therefore, you would not be able to drive after 4 standard beers.
These have to be drank over a short period, perhaps 2 hours, as you liver begins to break down the alcohol as soon as it is transported to it via the blood.
How many non alcoholic beers equal one alcoholic beer?
I have dedicated a full article to this question here, but the top line summary is…
A non alcoholic beer has 0.5% alcohol by volume and an alcoholic beer (according to the USDA) has 5% alcohol by volume. You would need to drink 10 non alcoholic beers of the same volume to equal one alcoholic beer of the same volume (in terms of alcohol).
How many non alcoholic beers to get drunk?
If you need to drink 4 standard beers to get drunk and 10 non alcoholic beers equals one standard beer, therefore you need to drink 40 non alcoholic beers to get drunk.
Can you drink non alcoholic beer and drive?
For the vast majority of people, you would not consider ever drinking 40 beers in 2 hours or even over a night or 3! Therefore if you are drinking recreationally, you can drink as many non alcoholic beers as you want and drive without risk of a DUI.
The actual amount you would need to drink before you get a DUI is 480fl oz of non alcoholic beer, 3.5 gallons of non alcoholic beer or 14.2 litres of beer in 2hours.
Anther way to look at it is you will have to drink a 12fl oz can of non alcoholic beer, every 3mins, for 2 hours, to get drunk.
DUI in special circumstances
Most drivers come under the standard 0.08% BAC ruling (except 0.05% in Utah), however there are certain road users who must have lower blood alcohol levels under the law to be allowed to drive.
A commercial driver must have a BAC of under 0.04% and a level of 0.02-0.04% means they cant drive for 24hrs.
In all states there are zero tolerance laws meaning anything from 0.00-0.02% can be illegal if you are under 21 (the legal age to drink)
|Category of driver||Allowable BAC|
|Under 21||Either 0 or <0.02%|
That means they would be able to drink significantly less non alcoholic beers before the possibility of getting a DUI comes into play.
A commercial driver, such as a long distance lorry driver, could only drink 20 non alcoholic beers. Even this level is unlikely to be reached for most normal drinking so the risk is still tiny.
The main risk would be an under 21 driver who might only be able to have 5 non alcoholic beers at best and i would recommend if you are in a state that has a 0.00% BAC level for under 21s, to avoid non alcoholic beer at all.
|Class of driver||Standard drink limit||Non alcoholic beer limit|
|Under 21 ZT||0.5||5|
Minors are allowed to buy and drink non alcoholic beer but the laws and what shops and retailers practice is different, for good reason. You can read my article on if minors can buy non alcoholic beer here
To check out all the BAC limits by state, you can see my full article on it here