A report launched today (9 Sept) highlights the growing proportion of all drink driving convictions received by women – up from 9% in 1998 to 17% in 2012.
The report, co-authored by Kris Beuret (Social Research Associates), Claire Corbett (Brunel University) and Heather Ward (UCL), calls for the drink drive limit to be reduced “to reflect the effect of alcohol on women’s bodies” and for road safety messages to make clear that drink driving is not a just a male problem.
The study is based on a combination of a literature review, face-to-face surveys with 430 women drivers, 20 in-depth interviews with convicted women drivers and statistical analysis of data relating to more than 150,000 motorists with a drink driving offence.
The study concluded that “alcohol has a greater effect on a woman than a man”, because “women metabolise alcohol differently and reach a higher level of blood alcohol concentration than men when ingesting the same amount, adjusted for body weight”.
One in six of the female motorists interviewed thought they might have driven while over the legal limit in the past year. The study also found that the circumstances surrounding women’s drink driving “often concerns their gender roles as wives and mothers”.
There was also a perception among some respondents that women were less likely to get caught than men. To some extent this was reinforced by drink drive advertising “which predominantly features men and led to a view that women were relatively under the radar in terms of being breathalysed”.
The study also revealed a concerning lack of awareness among women drivers about the amount of alcohol that can legally be consumed before taking to the road. More than half of respondents said they did not know the legal limit.
Recommendations stemming from the research include lowering the drink drive limit to reflect the effect of alcohol on women’s bodies; providing greater clarity about wine measures in terms of units or alcohol content; more analysis of drink drive statistics by gender; and emphasising that drink driving is not just a male problem in road safety messages.