Can You Drink Non Alcoholic Beer While Driving?
“Can you drive with a Point 5?” is one of the most common questions I’ve received from new non-alcoholic beer drinkers. And it’s not surprising - who doesn’t enjoy a cold beer after a busy day of work or a strenuous hike? Your prime time enjoyment of non-alcoholic beer might just coincide with your drive home.
Before you grab an NA from your beer fridge and fly out the door for a drive, I’ll break down the legality for drinking NA while driving.
For starters, the laws around driving and alcohol vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, the open container laws explicitly ban “alcoholic beverages” in vehicles, stating “the driver of any motor vehicle, including but not limited to a house coach or house trailer, shall not possess an open container of alcoholic beverage.” Additionally, a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must not be equal to (or greater than) 0.08%.
Does the state consider non-alcoholic beer to be an alcoholic beverage?
According to federal US law, beers are categorized by the amount of alcohol they contain (among other qualities). For a beer or malt beverage to be “non alcoholic,” it must contain less than 0.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV). Point 5 contains roughly 0.45% alcohol.
Since Point 5 is considered a non alcoholic beverage (contains less than 0.5% ABV), an open container of our NA beer does not appear explicitly prohibited by Massachusetts law. The same is true with in Washington state, where Scott Gutierrez interviewed defense attorney, Francisco Duarte, on open container laws of NA beverages. Duarte asserts that an NA beer falls into the same category as cough syrup or a piece of alcoholic chocolate - as long as you’re not driving under the influence, it’s not illegal to have it in your car while driving.
However, there may be other consequences of an open container of non alcoholic. From outside your vehicle, an NA beverage in a standard longneck bottle or beer can could easily be mistaken for an alcoholic beer, and may attract attention.
Can you reach the legal BAC limit with non alcoholic beer?
A common rule of thumb is that for an average person, consuming one 5% ABV beer per hour will keep their BAC under the 0.08% limit. In reality, bodies process and metabolize alcohol differently based on various factors such as genetics, sex, and body weight.
For non alcoholic beer, which has an ABV below 0.5%, the average person would have to drink roughly 10 per hour to have the equivalent alcohol consumption as a single 12-fl-oz 5% ABV beer. According to our rule of thumb, this would likely maintain their BAC below 0.08%.
Although it’s not illegal to drink Point 5 while driving in most states, it may give you some peace of mind to enjoy your NA bev where you won’t get pulled over, perhaps in your backyard enjoying the last few weeks of warm weather. If you do decide to pack a non alcoholic beer, check out the rules for your state.
Is drinking non-alcoholic beer while driving legal in your state? Let us know in the comments below!