More Women Driving Drunk – Numbers up 30 Percent

A surprising report authored by the FBI for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that during a ten-year span ending in 2007, the number of women arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) rose nearly 30 percent. The findings were unsuspected even to Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Department secretary, who commented on the report at a news conference. Approximately 2,000 fatalities each year are attributed to women driving under the influence of alcohol.

Experts suggest the climbing numbers of women driving drunk are due to the increasing pressure to earn more income, especially in light of rising national unemployment rates. Television is also cited for rising alcohol usage among women, due to new shows that make it look trendy and fashionable for women to drink at home.

In 2009, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor gained fame as the “heroine” of the stay-at-home moms who partake in alcohol during the day to ease the monotony. A New York Times article explains how the author of the witty and provocative books “Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay” and “Naptime Is the New Happy Hour” had to admit she had a drinking problem and sober up – even if it cost her a blogging audience and book sales.

The eye-opening story of mothers who drink at home came into a tragic spotlight again in 2009 when 36-year old Diane Schuler drove the wrong way in a mid-afternoon accident on a New York highway, killing four children, three adults and herself. Her blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.

Celebrity arrests and national exposure for DUIs are also on the rise, further highlighting the problem. In 2007, Heather Locklear was arrested for suspected drunk driving; she received a sentence of reckless driving, resulting in three years probation, a $700 fine and mandatory attendance at a drug education program. Also in 2007, Lindsay Lohan received a similar sentence of three years probation for a DUI. Her punishment also included 30 days of rehab and required attendance at an alcohol education program.

The study showing female DUI numbers on the rise was part of a national Labor Day campaign to reduce drunk driving, which included more sobriety checkpoints, more drivers stopped and more drivers ticketed. Although men still outnumber women four to one in terms of arrests for driving drunk, the numbers for the offense fell 7.5 percent for men during the decade-long study.
Reckless drinking and driving, especially repeated offenses, were addressed by Laura Dean-Moody upon the release of the ten-year study information. Moody’s husband was killed in 1991 by a drunk driver. A leader for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Moody said that 2 million drivers who have been previously arrested for alcohol abuse will be on the road during Labor Day weekend.

Researchers continue to study the reasons people drive drunk. Moody reprimanded overly-lax laws that don’t take licenses from drivers arrested for the offense, as well as laws that allow repeat offenders back on the road.

According to Susan Foster, research director at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, studies show women with higher levels of education are more prone to drink, as are women with jobs outside the home and unmarried women. Further research on the growing trend of women driving under the influence could help avoid future tragedies and save lives.