The non alcoholic wine market is exploding right now. Supermarket shelf space is transitioning from alcoholic to non alcoholic at the fastest rate i have seen. 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 wine and drive?”, will you get a DUI?
Just to be clear, i would like to point out that i am not in favour of drinking alcohol and driving. Even if you are just under the legal limit, it is dangerous. 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 wine and drive?
You can drink up to 96 5fl oz glasses of non alcoholic wine and still be legally allowed to drive if you are an over 21, non commercial driver. The average 160lb adult male would only be legally drunk after drinking 96 glasses of non alcoholic wine over a couple of hours so it would be very hard if not impossible to get a DUI after drinking non alcoholic wine.
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 have theirs at 0.05%. This is similar to Scotland having a lower level than the rest of the UK.
If blood alcohol concentrates are new to you then these figures might be meaningless but i will explain all in this article.
To be legally defined as drunk is the same level as to be too drunk to drive a car. The levels are both 0.08 BAC. We can figure out how many glasses of wine it takes to get drunk and go from there.
How many glasses of alcoholic wine before you cant drive?
If the drunk driving limit is the same as when you are legally intoxicated we just need to work out that number for both.
What is a standard glass of wine?
The first thing is figure out what a “standard” wine is. Wines come in all shapes, grapes, colours 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.
Every standard drink will have 4g of alcohol (0.6 ounces).
|Drink and volume||Alcohol content|
|12fl oz Beer||5%|
|5fl oz Wine||12%|
|1.5fl oz Spirit||40%|
A standard glass of wine is 5fl oz and 12% ABV.
The CDC tell us that the average 160lb adult male (is 160lb average by the way?!) needs to drink x4 5fl oz glasses of 12% ABV wine (a standard wine) to get drunk. Therefore, you would not be able to drive after 4 standard wines.
These have to be drank over a short period, perhaps 2 hours, as you liver begins to metabolise the alcohol as soon as it encounters it.
How many glasses of non alcoholic wine equal one alcoholic wine?
I have dedicated a full article to this question here, but the headline data is…
A non alcoholic wine has 0.5% alcohol by volume and an alcoholic wine (according to the USDA) has 12% alcohol by volume. You would need to drink 24 glasses of non alcoholic wine of the same volume to equal one alcoholic wine of the same volume (in terms of alcohol).
How many glasses of non alcoholic wine to get drunk?
If you need to drink 4 standard wine to get drunk and 24 glasses of non alcoholic wine equals one standard wine, you therefore need to drink 96 glasses of non alcoholic wine to get drunk.
Can you drink non alcoholic wine and drive?
For everyone i’ve ever met, you would not consider ever drinking 96 glasses of wine in 2 hours or even over a week! Therefore if you are drinking recreationally with friends or even on your own, you can drink as many glasses of non alcoholic wine 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 wine, 3.5 gallons of non alcoholic wine or about 19 bottles of non alcoholic wine. The would be an expensive session.
Anther way to look at it is you will have to drink a 5fl oz glass of non alcoholic wine, every 75 seconds, for 2 hours, to get drunk.
DUI in special circumstances
Most drivers come under the umbrella 0.08% BAC ruling (except 0.05% in Utah), however there are certain drivers 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). The younger the driver is the more likely they are to be killed or crash when intoxicated.
To check out all the BAC limits by state, you can see my full article on it here
|Category of driver||Allowable BAC|
|Under 21||Either 0 or <0.02%|
That means they would be able to drink significantly less non alcoholic wines before the possibility of getting a DUI comes into play.
A commercial driver, such as a long distance lorry driver, could “only” drink 48 glasses of non alcoholic wine. Even this level is unlikely to be reached, i cant remember the last time i came within a fraction of this level.
The main risk would be an under 21 driver who might only be able to have 12 glasses non alcoholic wine or even lower and i would recommend if you are in a state that has a 0.00% BAC level for under 21s, to avoid non alcoholic wine at all.
|Class of driver||Standard drink limit||Non alcoholic wine limit|
|Under 21 ZT||0.5||12|
Minors are allowed to buy and drink non alcoholic drinks 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