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Women increasingly the drivers in DWIs, drunk driving accidents

A collection of statistics from the FBI, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation are pointing to a growing trend of drunk driving among women. While the rate of men arrested for DWI and DUI has been declining nationwide since 1995, the research found that the rate for women is rising at the same time. In fact, the latest statistics from the FBI show that women accounted for nearly a quarter of all drunk driving arrests in 2011 -- a dramatic rise since the early 80s, when women only made up 10 percent of those arrests.

The increasing number of women behind the wheel intoxicated and causing drunk driving accidents is startling, but it may have more to do with societal change than anything. For a new report, researchers from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation interviewed drunk driving offenders from California, New York, Michigan and Missouri. They concluded that the key reasons behind the increase in women driving drunk were related to changes in women’s roles.

Since the 1980s, women have been driving a lot more. Not only do they have careers, but they often fill roles in child care and home management, which can require significant time behind the wheel transporting children and groceries. Others are community volunteers and even commercial drivers. While the researchers didn’t focus on women in Texas, we see many of the same factors at play in our state.

In 2007, NHTSA found that men were more than twice as likely as women to be caught driving drunk, but that appears to be changing quickly. Yet since men have made up the vast majority of both those arrested for DWI and those killed in drunk driving accidents for so long, many public outreach and information programs are targeted almost exclusively at them.

"We've had women alcoholics for a long time," said a former addiction counselor and DUI court monitor who commented on the report. "Now, more of them are working, and so we're seeing more of them on the roads."

Source: Chicago Tribune, “DUI demographics point to higher mix of women,” Ted Gregory, Sept. 12, 2013

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