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The Double Disadvantage of the Female Drinking Driver

Tammy Wynette put it best: "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman..."

That is especially true in the arena of DUI law. A female behind the wheel after a couple of drinks is at a double disadvantage compared to her male counterpart.

The first disadvantage is obvious. Men are generally larger than women. But because drinks don't come in a "male size" and a "female size," that means that an identical number of drinks can result in a substantially higher breath or blood alcohol level in the female drinker. It's a substantial problem under modern drunk driving laws.

The second disadvantage to the female drinker arises from the body structure of women versus men. It is a simple physiological fact that women have more body fat than men do. On average, a woman has a 25% higher body fat level than a man does. That is, the average woman has a body fat percentage of around 20%, while an average man's body fat is around 16%.

What does this have to do with alcohol?

Alcohol is a "hydrophilic" chemical. It dilutes in water, but is repelled from fatty tissue. When you drink alcohol, the alcohol accumulates in the water-based parts of your body: the brain, the blood, the organs and the muscles.

Since an average man has more muscle and more blood volume (water-based tissue) than a woman who weighs the same, the alcohol that he drinks is more diluted by his muscles, organs and blood. A woman's body, with less muscle and more fatty tissues, squeezes the alcohol she drinks into a smaller volume of water-based tissue. It's like pouring the same amount of alcohol in a smaller container.

The result is that a woman--even if she is the same height and weight as her male drinking partner--will get a 20-25% higher blood alcohol level from the same drink.

So when the experts say to calculate a .02 blood alcohol for every beer, drink or glass of wine, DON'T BELIEVE THEM. If you are a woman, you should calculate .035 for every drink. It is a rare woman who can rely on being under the limit if she has more than two drinks in an hour.

Just one more way that life isn't fair.

Why We're Different

Board Certification as a DUI Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense. Formal NHTSA Certification as an Instructor of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests given by police in DUI cases. Formal training as a NHTSA Drug Recognition Evaluator. ("Drug Evaluation & Classification") Formal training to operate the Intoxilyzer 8000, Florida's official breath test instrument. Extensive experience in teaching other attorneys how to handle DUI cases. Hundreds of jury trials both as defense lawyer and as prosecutor.