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What is the TABC “Know Your Limit” Blood Alcohol Chart?

  • Last Updated: March 22nd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

Many drunk driving accidents are caused by people who were over-served simply because the server didn't know when to cut them off. In order to keep such accidents from happening, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission created an easy-to-use chart to help alcohol providers know when to cut a patron off. But what exactly is the TABC "Know Your Limit" blood alcohol chart?

Answer: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's "Know Your Limit" chart is a tool that alcohol providers are required to use to gauge how intoxicated a customer is. It helps servers know whether it's safe to serve an additional drink to a customer.

Let's Take a Look at the "Know Your Limit" Chart

Below is a pic of the chart. You'll notice it has a few basic features, such as one chart for men, another for women, and it seems to have a color code. Take a peak at the chart, and then we'll jump into how it is used.

The TABC "Know Your Limit" Chart is a helpful tool that all servers should use to help avoid over-serving alcohol and facing liability under the Texas Dram Shop Act.

How to Use the "Know Your Limit" Chart

To use the chart, a server needs to know three pieces of info:

  1. Whether to use the chart for men or women.
  2. A reasonable idea of the customer's weight.
  3. The number of drinks served.

The chart was designed so that a server armed with this easy-to-obtain info could glance at the chart and know whether it is safe to serve the customer an additional drink.

The chart works much like the old board game Battleship. Remember that game? You had numbers on the horizontal (X) axis and letters on the vertical (Y) axis. You would guess a coordinate—(3, B), for instance—and your opponent would find the point where column 3 and row B intersected. If their boat was located in that spot, you just scored a hit on them.

Who knew all the years spent destroying U-boats could make someone a safer bartender? Also, Battleship is the intellectual property of Milton Bradley. We don't have anything to do with the game, but you already knew that, and we only put this here because corporate lawyers don't have a sense of humor.

Let's take a closer look at the various sections of the "Know Your Limit" chart. As you can see, it works a bit like Battleship.

First, we see that the horizontal (X) axis has the customer's weight.

Next, the vertical (Y) axis has the number of drinks served (from 1 to 10).

How to use the TABC know your limit chart

The same way that Battleship uses a number/letter coordinate system, the "Know Your Limit" chart uses a grid system wherein one finds the customer's BAC by matching up the customer's weight and the number of drinks they've consumed.

Let's Do a Dry Run to See How the Chart Works

Scenario: A customer asks a server for another drink. The server needs to determine what the customer's approximate BAC is in order to determine if it's safe to serve more.

  • Step 1: The server goes to the column for the approximate weight of the customer, which they guess to be about 160 lbs.
  • Step 2: They server goes to the row on the chart that corresponds to the number of drinks the customer has been served already, which the server knows is 5 drinks.
  • The Answer: Where these two lines meet, the chart shows the customer's approximate BAC of .12. The whole process takes a few seconds.

Like this:

Piece of cake.

Clearly, when properly used, the TABC "Know Your Limit" chart makes it easy for a server to know when serving an additional drink would be dangerous and/or against Texas law.

But Let's Not Forget About The Color Codes

So far, we've just focused on the numbers. But the TABC wanted to make the "Know Your Limit" chart as simple as possible. Returning to the example shown in the animation, suppose the bartender didn't realize that .12 is drunk enough that the customer should be cut off. Well, the TABC has them covered, because they also color code the chart to indicate the level of risk or danger.

Here's what the colors mean:

  • Green Zone: (Possibly Impaired)
    • The server can probably serve the customer additional alcohol.
    • Likely effects of being in the Green Zone:
      • 02-.03%: Relaxation, altered mood.
  • Yellow Zone: (Impaired)
    • The server should be cautious about serving the customer additional alcohol.
    • Likely effects of being in the Yellow Zone:
      • 04-.07%: Lowered alertness, slight loss of judgment.
  • Red Zone: (Legally Intoxicated)
    • The server should NOT serve this customer any additional alcohol.
    • Likely effects of being in the Red Zone:
      • 08-.10%: Euphoria, Fatigue, impaired speech, balance, vision, judgment, self-control.
      • .11-.15%: Strong impairment of motor skills, perception, and judgment.
      • .16-.19%: Nausea, dizziness, disorientation, blurred vision, increased impairment of motor skills and judgment.
      • .20-.24%: Nausea, vomiting, confusion, possible blackout, gross disorientation, may need help standing or walking.
      • .25-.30%: Mental, physical, sensory functions severely impaired, may pass out.
      • .31% and up: Possible coma. alcohol poisoning, and death.

So, even if a server isn't familiar with what various BAC levels mean (which they should be), they can probably understand that "RED" means danger, so stop serving that customer.

Here are some examples of how the "Know Your Limit" chart works in terms of the color code:

Example 1: Gary, a 140 lb. man, was served one standard 12 oz. beer. Using the "Know Your Limit" chart, Gary's blood alcohol content is .03 and falls into the green zone. This means Gary is probably feeling a little relaxed from the one serving of alcohol he drank, but he is not near the yellow or red zones. The server can assume it is safe to serve Gary another serving of alcohol.

Example 2: Sheila, a 160 lb. woman, drank one 12 ounce beer and 3 5-ounce glasses of wine at a bar in Dallas, Texas. The 12 ounce beer Sheila drank counts as one serving of alcohol. Each 5 ounce glass of wine also counts as one serving of alcohol. In total, Sheila drank four servings of alcohol. Using the "Know Your Limit" chart, Sheila's blood alcohol content is .11 and in the red zone. Sheila is legally intoxicated, and her motor skills are strongly impaired at this point. She is also having trouble with her perception and decision making, which are signs that a trained bartender shouldn't miss. A bartender who faithfully uses the "Know Your Limit" chart would stop serving Sheila, whereas a server who doesn't use the chart might continue to serve alcohol to her.

Example 3: Jake, a 220 lb. man, drank four servings of alcohol at a restaurant. Using the "Know Your Limit" chart, Jake's blood alcohol content is .07 and falls into the yellow zone. At this level, Jake is impaired, and one more serving of alcohol will bring him over the legal limit of .08. At .07, Jake is less alert and is having slight trouble in making decisions.

Example 4: Tom, a 160 lb. man, drank three martinis and one 12 ounce glass of red wine at happy hour. Each martini counts as two servings of alcohol, which means Tom drank seven servings of alcohol in total. Using the "Know Your Limit" chart, Tom's blood alcohol level is at .16, twice the legal limit. After drinking the three martinis, Tom was slurring his speech, was disoriented, and had trouble standing up. Even though Tom was showing obvious signs that he was drunk, the bartender didn't cut him off. Instead, the bartender served Tom a glass of wine. Tom is now dangerously in the red zone of the "Know Your Limit" chart. Having been over-served by a bartender who didn't know the "Know Your Limit" chart, Tom is extremely drunk and his judgment is impaired.

Why is the "Know Your Limit" Chart Important?

Texas law says bars, restaurants, and other alcohol providers can't serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons; it's illegal and can get them sued if something happens because a customer was over-served. To help bars comply with this law, the TABC furnishes the "Know Your Limit" chart.

Unfortunately, not all alcohol providers take advantage of this tool. In fact, failing to properly use the TABC "Know Your Limit" chart is something we often see in the dram shop cases we litigate. And, sadly, most of the fatal and catastrophic injuries we deal with in our dram shop cases could have been avoided if the servers had only used the "Know Your Limit" chart.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by the over-service of alcohol, call our firm any time to discuss your case. We have more experience litigating dram shop cases than any other firm in Texas and welcome a chance to provide you with a free consultation.

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