More Women Are Being Arrested for Drunk Driving

While drunk-driving arrests among men are falling, they are rapidly increasing among women. Shockingly, some of these women are getting behind the wheel with their kids (and others’ kids) in back.

The Associated Press reports that men still drink more than women on average and are responsible for more drunk-driving cases, but that the gap between men and women is narrowing. Among the reasons cited is that women are feeling greater pressures at work and at home, they are driving more, and they are behaving more recklessly.

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

Another possible reason for the increasing arrests is that police are less likely to let women off the hook these days.

Nationwide, the number of women arrested for driving under the influence was 28.8 percent higher in 2007 than it was in 1998, while the number of men arrested was 7.5 percent lower, according to FBI figures that cover about 56 percent of the country. While this sample doesn’t represent the entire US, Alfred Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon University criminologist, said the trend probably holds true for the country as a whole.

“Women are picking up some of the dangerously bad habits of men,” said Chuck Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In New York’s Westchester County, where last month 36-year-old mother of two Diane Schuler killed herself and seven other people, four of which were children, the number of women arrested for drunk driving is up 2 percent this year. Officers said they are noticing more women driving drunk with children in the back seat.

“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,” said Tom Meier, director of Drug Prevention and Stop DWI for the county.

In California, based on the same FBI figures, women accounted for 18.8 percent of all DUI arrests in 2007, up from 13.5 percent in 1998, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Nearly 250 children were killed in alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. in 2007, and most of them were passengers in the car with the impaired driver, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

“Drunk drivers often carry their kids with them,” said MADD’s Hurley. “It’s the ultimate form of child abuse.”

The increase in arrests comes as women are drinking  more excessively than in the past. One federal study found that the number of women who reported abusing alcohol (having at least four drinks in a day) rose from 1.5 percent to 2.6 percent over the 10-year period that ended in 2002. For women ages 30 to 44, the number more than doubled, from 1.5 percent to 3.3 percent.

The Transportation Department’s annual crackdown on drunken driving, which begins later this month, will focus on women. “There’s the impression out there that drunk driving is strictly a male issue, and it is certainly not the case,” said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “There are a number of parts of the country where, in fact, the majority of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes are female.”

Unlike men, women tend to drink at home and alone, which allows them to conceal a problem more easily. Because of this, they seek treatment less often than men, and when they do, it is at a later stage, often when something catastrophic has already happened, said Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

“Our society has taught us that women have an extra burden to be the perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect daughters and perfect everything,” Levounis said. “They tend to go to great lengths to keep everything intact from an external viewpoint while internally, they are in ruins.”

“Our society has taught us that women have an extra burden to be the perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect daughters and perfect everything,” Levounis said. “They tend to go to great lengths to keep everything intact from an external viewpoint while internally, they are in ruins.”

In the current recession, women’s incomes have become more important because so many men have lost their jobs, experts say. Men are helping out more at home, but working mothers still have the bulk of the child-rearing responsibilities.

“Because of that, they have a bigger burden then most men do,” said clinical psychologist Carol Goldman. “We have to look at the pressures on women these days. They have to be the supermom.”

Excerpts taken from an article by The Associated Press.

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