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PolitiFact: Proposed DUI standard could mean one drink is too many for some

The statement

A 0.05 standard for drunken driving means having a glass of wine at dinner could make a person drunk.

Tavern League of Wisconsin, in an interview

The ruling

On May 14, a federal agency recommended reducing the threshold for evidence of drunken driving from a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 to 0.05.

That means having a glass of wine at dinner might make a person drunk, Scott Stenger, a spokesman for the Tavern League of Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He said he based his claim on news articles and a chart from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The news covered the recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board that states should cut the current blood-alcohol level for evidence of intoxication as part of a series of ideas aimed at reducing alcohol-related highway deaths.

The Associated Press says 0.05 is "about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds," and that a drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol "in most studies."

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says its BAC data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It says essentially what Stenger and AP did: A 100-pound woman could reach 0.05 after one drink.

So, there's evidence that a limited group of drinkers could be legally drunk after one drink, if the standard for drunken driving were reduced to 0.05.

We checked three online calculators that use various factors, including gender and weight. They generally found a BAC of less than 0.05 for a 100-pound woman consuming one drink, though none found the same thing.

So, why the variations? All of the figures are estimates.

The Wisconsin DOT points out that other factors are in play. Your BAC will be higher if you drink faster or drink on an empty stomach. Women reach higher BACs faster because they have less water in their bodies and more adipose tissue (fat).

Jan Grebel, a chemical test supervisor for the DOT, pointed to another factor: If you drink frequently, your liver can break down alcohol more efficiently, but if you don't, your BAC would be higher after even one drink.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Tom Kertscher, PolitiFact Wisconsin

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Proposed DUI standard could mean one drink is too many for some 05/21/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 8:47pm]
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