Non alcoholic beer has many perks. It tastes great, it is lower in calories but the main one is the lack of alcohol. There are lots of questions someone new to the world of non alcoholic beer has but there is one that can puzzle everyone. It is “Can you drink non alcoholic beer when driving?”. On a hot summers day i would be nice to be able to drink a cold non alcoholic beer when driving but is it legal?
At the start of this article i would point out i am not a lawyer so this is an informational article only. I have been carful to source all my information from government and state website and make it as accurate as possible but i would want specific legal advice, it would be prudent to get it from your lawyer.
Can you drink non alcoholic beer while driving?
You can drink non alcoholic beer while driving. The two reasons it would be illegal are if you are drunk or under the open bottle rules. You would need to drink over 40 non alcoholic beers in 2hours to get a DUI and non alcoholic beers, at 0.5% ABV, are not deemed alcoholic beverages under
What is the open container law?
Open container laws ban you from having an open container of alcohol in different situations. These might be a work place, in public or in this case, in you car.
Congress passed a federal law in 1998 which financially incentivised states to have an open container law for motor vehicles (or more accurately, provided a financial penalty if they didn’t). Subsequently, all states have variations of the open container law.
You can read a full state list and the variations of them here.
Some states only impose this on the driver, some are for everyone in the car. There can be specific exceptions for a well sealed, partially drunk bottle of wine you are bringing home from a restaurant for example.
Open container laws prohibit the presence of any type of unsealed container that contains or contained an alcoholic beverage. They can include:
What is the definition of an alcoholic beverage?
The Federal Alcohol Administration Act states that an alcoholic beverage is any liquid which contains not less than one half of one percent alcohol by volume and is intended for human consumption.
So basically, any beer which have more than 0.5% ABV would be considered and alcoholic beverage.
Is non alcoholic beer an alcoholic beverage?
This might seem like a silly question but it is the very thing that will decide if you can drink it in your car or not.
If non alcoholic beer is still classed as alcoholic then it would come under the open container laws.
The USFDA inform us that a non alcoholic beer or malt beverage must have less than 0.5% ABV. As we have seen from the Federal laws above, an alcoholic beverage must have an ABV of over 0.5%. Therefore non alcoholic beers are as the name suggest and classed as not alcoholic.
A non alcoholic beer can be drunk by the driver and anyone in the car as it is not an alcoholic beverage and does not come under the open contain laws.
To be even safer, you could drink an alcohol free beer, such as Heineken 0.0% which will contain not more than 0.05% ABV.
For context as to much much alcohol is in a 0.5% non alcoholic beer, i have written an article highlighting how much alcohol is in other foods and drinks, you can read it here. Fruit juice contains more alcohol as can some breads.
Can you drink non alcoholic beer and drive? Will you get a DUI?
The second reason it may be illegal to have an open bottle of non alcoholic beer or be drinking a non alcoholic beer while driving, is if you are intoxicated.
For most states, non commercial and over 21 year old drivers can have a blood alcohol concentration of up to 0.08% before being drunk and subject to a DUI. To check out all the state limits, see my post here.
If you are only drinking non alcoholic beer, the amount you would need to drink in about a 2 hour window to get your blood alcohol concentration to 0.08, is 40 12fl oz non alcoholic beers. I have worked through all the calculations here.
The CDC tell us how many standard drinks it takes to get drunk and you can work the pretty easy math from here.
The numbers are even more ludicrous for an alcohol free beer. You would need to drink over 400 12fl oz alcohol free beers in 2 hours to get drunk. That just is not possible. You would die before you would get drunk.
Will I get pulled over if i have an open bottle of non alcoholic beer?
If non alcoholic beers are not classes as alcoholic and don’t come under the open container laws, and you cant get drunk on them, then surely you’ll never get pulled over by the police for drinking one, right?
You are highly likely to be pulled over if a police officer sees you drinking a non alcoholic beer and for very good reason.
All non alcoholic beers are packaged and labelled to mimic alcoholic beers. It is one of the reasons they are not sold to minors by most store. At a glance, a police officer will not be able to tell the difference between a non alcoholic beer and an alcoholic one and it is definitely right that they stop anyone suspected of drinking alcohol whilst driving or being drunk behind the wheel.
You may need to undertake breathalyser test or roadside sobriety test and you may even get an erroneous fine as perhaps the police officer might not know about non alcoholic beers or their difference from alcoholic ones.