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Young women taking more risks by drinking and driving

Stats skyrocket on women ages 21-24 in alcohol-related accidents.

The amount of women drivers involved in alcohol-related deaths and injuries have nearly doubled in the past decade, surpassing their male counterparts in alcohol-related collisions resulting in fatality or injury.

According to analyses by the Automobile Club of Southern California, the amount of women drivers aged 21 to 24 involved in fatal and injury alcohol-related crashes has risen by 166 percent, while their male counterparts’ crashes have risen 39 percent from 1998 to 2007.

“These numbers suggest a significant change in our driving culture overall,” said Steven A. Bloch, PhD, Auto Club senior traffic safety researcher. “Despite the $13,500 to $15,000 in fines, fees and penalties associated with a DUI conviction and the threat of death or injury, young women in particular are increasingly driving in a more risky fashion. As the holiday party season gets underway, these statistics should serve as a serious warning for young adults.”

But women are not the only ones involved in alcohol-related deaths and injuries; the amount of young adult women passengers and pedestrians in alcohol-related incidences has risen by nearly half within the past decade.

In 1998, 1,037 women from ages 21 to 24 were killed or injured in alcohol-related collisions; in 2007, the amount of women killed or injured in alcohol-related collisions had risen to 1,515, 46 percent more than a decade ago.

CHP Officer Eric Newbury said women’s larger role in what were previously male-dominated workplaces may play a part in their decision to consume alcohol and drive, as they try to “keep up” with their more alcohol-tolerant counterparts.

Regardless of the reason for their higher alcohol consumption, the rise has young women outpacing their male peers of the same age in alcohol-related deaths and injuries.

Women drivers ages 18 to 20 were involved in 74 percent more alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes in 2007 than in 1998, while male drivers increased their crashes by 27 percent.

“The analysis shows that young women are rapidly catching up with men in terms of risk-taking behavior and incurring the consequences of risk-taking, such as alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes,” said Bloch.

Newbury said women feel the need to keep up with their male counterparts, and in order to be viewed as equals, go drink for drink with men, even though their bodies might not be able to handle the same amount of alcohol.

“People think it’s okay to have ‘just a beer’ before driving, but once you start sipping or nursing a drink, it’s difficult to stop,” said Newbury.

The average person can metabolize a shot of liquor or alcohol within an hour, which is what most blood alcohol level charts are calculated from. However, most people don’t consider this when drinking.

“People who go out drinking don’t plan on breaking the law,” said Newbury. “But if you have three strong or mixed drinks in four hours, you might not metabolize them.”

Regardless of how much alcohol a person has while out, said Newbury, the only way to be safe while going about town, especially on the holidays, is to use a designated driver who has not had any alcohol before driving.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female to us if you’ve been drinking and driving,” he said. “If [the CHP] catch you, you will be penalized.”

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