Drunk Driving on the Rise Among Young Women

In the past, young men were more likely to experience alcohol-related crashes.

ByABC News
February 19, 2010, 4:26 PM

Feb. 20, 2010— -- Increases in alcohol-related fatalities among young women drivers have outpaced the decade-long rise in such deaths among young men, researchers have found.

Between 1995 and 2007, the increase in the number of women ages 16 to 24 involved in fatal, alcohol-related crashes rose by 3.1 percent, according to Dr. Virginia Tsai of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues.

That compares with a jump of 1.2 percent among young men, the researchers reported in the journal Injury Prevention.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 23 percent of alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2007 involved drivers 16 to 24, and in only 34 percent of those crashes were seat belts used -- a decline of 6 percent in safety restraint use in one year alone.

Historically, young men have been over-represented among alcohol-related automobile crashes.

The increasing gender equalization among adolescents, however, with young women being encouraged to take on more traditional male roles, also may lead to their adoption of more aggression and risk-taking, the researchers wrote.

Substance abuse, particularly with prescription drugs and alcohol, also has increased among teenage girls, they noted.

To examine the effects of these trends on automobile fatalities, Tsai and colleagues examined crash data for young women from the traffic safety administration's Fatal Analysis Reporting System.

Blood alcohol concentrations of 0.01 g/dL and higher were considered positive, and concentrations were stratified as being below the legal limit for driving (0.01 to 0.07 g/dL), at or above the legal limit (0.08 to 0.14 g/dL), and severely impaired (0.15 g/dL and higher, a level associated with a 100-fold increase in crash risk).

The percentage of young women in fatal crashes with positive blood alcohol concentrations increased on weekdays by 3.5 percent and on weekends by 2.2 percent.

Among young men with positive blood alcohol concentrations the increases were 1.5 percent on weekdays and 0.4 percent on weekends.