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The Double Disadvantage of the Female Drinking Driver

Posted by attorney Thomas Hudson

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 that men find so attractive. The gentle curves of the female body result from the 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, the alcohol that he drinks is more diluted by his muscles, organs and blood volume. 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.

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