As Women Drink More, Female DUI Arrests Rise, Statistics Show

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A report in the Associated Press explores the growing number of women who are found behind the wheel and under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Lisa A. Flam also notes that women are more likely than men to be intoxicated behind the wheel with children in the car.

Nationwide data shows that men still drink more than women and are the primary demographic involved in DUI, but the gap is closing. The rate of men arrested for DUI has actually fallen while the rate of women involved has risen.

There are numerous theories as to why women are involved in growing numbers of DUI cases. They may be feeling greater pressures at work or at home, or both, and these pressures may see them on the road more frequently while also prompting more reckless behavior in some cases.

"Younger women feel more empowered, more equal to men, and have been beginning to exhibit the same uninhibited behaviors," says Chris Cochran of the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Another theory suggests that historically, police have been more likely to let women off the hook, but that times have changed.

In 2007, 28.8% more women were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol than in 1998, according to FBI data that covers a little more than half the country. Comparing male statistics over the same span shows that men were arrested 7.5% less.

"Women are picking up some of the dangerously bad habits [more commonly associated] with men," says Chuck Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In Westchester County, New York, the number of women arrested for DUI offenses is up this year, and officers have noticed more women with their children in the car during offenses.

Tom Meier, the director of Drug Prevention and stop DWI for the county notes the disturbing trend:

"We realized for the last two to three years, the pattern of more female drivers, particularly mothers with kids in their cars, getting arrested for drunk driving."

A federal study has found that the number of women who report abusing alcohol (defined in the study as more than four drinks in a day) has risen by multiple percentage points over the last decade. The rate rose from 1.5 to 2.6% from 1993 to 2002, and the rate of alcohol abuse among women ages 30 to 44 has more than doubled over the same span of time.

The federal government has taken notice. The Department of Transportation will begin its annual crackdown on drunken driving behavior later in August, and this year, the campaign will focus on women. As the gender gap closes, more and more women will face an equal-opportunity court system eager to drive the statistics back into decline.

Source: The Associated Press


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