Car Crashes Caused by Underage Female Drunk Drivers Now Match Level of Their Male Counterparts

The number of alcohol-related vehicular accidents in the U.S. has remained relatively level over the last decade, according to a new report, yet the number of those caused by young female drunk drivers has increased to the point where it is now level with the number of those caused by male drunk drivers.

Researchers from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation's Impaired Driving Center conducted an updated analysis on whether the risk for being involved in an alcohol-impaired vehicular accident had changed from 1996 to 2007, as this time period showed little change in the percentage of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities. Lead researcher Robert B. Voas, PhD and colleagues used the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to collect blood-alcohol information gathered from alcohol-related vehicular fatalities in 2006 and 2007 (6,864 drivers, 22.8% of which were female), while also using blood-alcohol levels gathered from the 2007 U.S. National Roadside Survey (6,823 drivers) as a control. All the outcomes from 2006–2007 were computed for risk estimates, and then compared to that of the 1996 FARS and roadside survey data.

In 1996, there was a large gender gap when it came to alcohol-impaired car crashes; underage men were almost twice as likely to be involved in an alcohol-impaired vehicular accident as underage females. Although the number of all alcohol-impaired car crashes or the risk of being involved in one (regardless of age) did not decrease significantly from 1996 to 2007—the gender gap increasingly closed over the decade. By 2007, men still proportionately drank and drove more often than women (at any level of alcohol impairment), but percentage-wise the number of young women who drank and got behind the wheel had risen so much that it was comparable to the rate of their male counterparts. This indicates that young women now have the same risk for being involved in an alcohol-impaired car crash as young men do.

From 1996 to 2007, regardless of age, one's risk of being killed or involved in a fatal vehicular accident increased as the drivers' blood-alcohol level rose as well. For instance, 16- to 20-year-old drivers who had a blood-alcohol level between 0.02% and 0.49% in 2007 faced a threefold higher risk for being involved in a fatal vehicular accident compared to drivers from 1996. This same increased risk was also true among their sober counterparts. Furthermore, underage drivers' risk for being involved in a single-vehicle fatal accident had risen nearly fourfold.

Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that the risk of sober underage males becoming involved in a fatal alcohol-impaired car crash doubled over the time period. The reason behind this heightened risk, as well as the increase in female drivers' risks is unknown, the researchers state, but they predict that it may have to do with young people's growing rate of distracted driving. Young female drivers may be taking greater risks on the road, and the introduction of texting while driving during this time period may be a contributor, the researchers suggest. Whatever the cause, the researchers indicate that more drunk-driving prevention education needs to be implemented to both males and females during their adolescence, when they are most at risk.

The researchers' study has been published in the latest issue of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Posted on April 8th, 2012
Posted in Articles

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