There’s one of these unshakeable truths when people say statistics never lie. Except, of course, figures can always be manipulated to get the results we want or just for the sake of it (trolls can be found in every trade or profession). However, since so much money rides on it, the evidence that women are safer drivers than men seems fairly unshakeable. If this were not the case, car insurance rates would be higher for women drivers. Continuing this theme, one of the tasks performed by government is to collect statistics about our behavior. It helps them form policies and gives the basis for new laws. Since 2003, the numbers collected by the FBI show there’s been a slow but steady increase in the number of women charged with DWI. Annually, this increase has been a little over 20% while the number of men charged has dropped by almost 17% (DUI arrests of women increased from 174,000 to 211,000 per year).
The medical evidence shows women’s bodies do not process alcohol as well as men’s. They absorb alcohol more quickly and then take longer to break it down and “expel” it. That means, pound for pound, if a man and a woman drink the same amount of alcohol, that alcohol will affect the woman more quickly and the effect will last longer. This is very significant.
Back to the statistics which now show more women than men holding driver’s licenses. If more roadside checks were run, there should be as many women driving as men. Even if they waited before driving, it’s not surprising there should be more women over the blood alcohol concentration limit.
It’s also a fact there are more women in the work force. This gives them much greater earning power and independence. Levels of stress have also been rising, not only because of workplace problems, but also because of relationship issues. Some sociology researchers have suggested women are now more likely to drown their sorrows after a bad argument, separation or divorce. More generally, one of the ways in which both men and women deal with stress is by drinking. It’s also become more socially acceptable for women to go out drinking on their own or in groups. Particularly among younger women, i.e. aged between 21 and 34, this has led to a cultural change with more women drinking, driving and crashing. Even when they are well-known, they still drink and drive.
To make the problem seem worse, many states have been reducing the use of first offender diversion programs. Whereas women might have benefited from such programs in the past, they are now going through the court system. This leaves just one issue. At a time when the total number of drunk driving arrests has been falling, it’s disconcerting to see more women being arrested. Let’s hope this is not male law enforcement officers electing to be less sympathetic to female drivers. It would be unfortunate if these DWI statistics were tracking a rise in a new way for women to be victimized and discriminated against.