Guys vs. Gals: Who is at a Higher Risk for Driving Drunk?


For decades, men have dominated drunk driving accidents. When most people think of a drunk driver, chances are they’re thinking of men. Recent statistics, however, suggest that while the overall number of drunk drivers is declining, females now make up a greater percentage of the drunk driving population. While men are still at a higher risk for driving drunk than women, recent studies have shown the need to target the female population for drunk driving prevention.

DUI Arrest and DUI Fatality Statistics

In the 1980s, only about 10 percent of drunk driving arrests were women. By 2011, however, that number had climbed to almost 25%. When a woman gets behind the wheel drunk, she puts herself at greater risk than if a man were to drive with the same blood alcohol content. While men, who spend more time on the road, are still statistically more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident, the difference between fatalities for men and women has narrowed significantly over the past several years.

Drunk Driving and Teens

Over the past several years, there have been a number of campaigns aimed at reducing drunk driving in teenagers. Thankfully, those programs have been successful. Since 1991, the number of teenagers who drink and drive has decreased by 54%. Teenage drunk drivers, however, aren’t as divided by gender as adults. While males are still statistically more likely to drink and drive, females are following close behind them.

Prevalence of Women Drinking

There have always been female alcoholics. Typically, however, those women were the ones who stayed at home, drinking themselves into a stupor without the need to involve anyone else. Now, says Queens, NY traffic attorneys Isaac Abraham, female alcoholics are finding themselves on the road with alcohol in their systems. Many female drinkers are single moms, whether because they’ve never been married or because they are divorced or separated. They have to take care of their homes, their children, and their jobs, all without spousal support. They stop in for a drink to relax on the way home, but when they “have one too many,” they don’t have anyone to call to come pick them up, nor can they sit around the bar waiting for the effects to wear off when their children are waiting on them. Often, women admit that an extreme stressor preceded the drunk driving incident, clouding their judgment and pushing them toward rash behaviors they wouldn’t normally have indulged. Given these circumstances, it’s little wonder that drunk driving crashes have become more common for women.

Women’s Vulnerability to Alcohol’s Effects

In general, women are smaller than men. They have less muscle mass and tend to eat less high-fat, greasy foods, which means that they’ll absorb alcohol faster and be affected by it more quickly and more severely. While some women are able to drink just as much as men, others discover that they didn’t have nearly the tolerance they expected. Unfortunately, as alcohol impairs judgment, it also clouds the ability to measure impairment. Many women assume that they’re perfectly fine right up until they’re pulled over for erratic driving or involved in an accident.

As the prevalence of women drinking and driving draws even with men, it’s more important than ever before that police officers, bars, and restaurants recognize the shift in statistics. It’s easier to overlook a woman who is about to get into a car while still drunk simply because of her gender. An acknowledgement of these changing statistics is critical to preventing drunk driving accidents in the future. In addition, campaigns aimed at reducing the overall rate of drunk driving must recognize this significant change in the drunk driving population. Women need to know the potential consequences of drunk driving, the other options they have, and how to know when they’ve had too much in order to help prevent them from getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.

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