DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t drink and drive is a message thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been drilled in your head for years. But scarily, many women seem to be tuning it out. DUIs among women increased 29 percent between 1998 and 2007, according to a new report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. And the latest FBI statistics show that in 2011, women made up nearly 25 percent of drunk driving arrests nationwide, up from about 10 percent in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, DUIs among men have actually been on the decline since the 1990s.
Why are more women boozing before getting behind the wheel? For starters, women are spending a bigger chunk of their time on the road. Societal shifts over the past few decades have led to an increase in the number of working women, who often have long commutes to and from their workplace, says Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. Also, guys no longer automatically take the driverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seat when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re out with their female partner. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It used to be the norm for the male half of a couple to do all the driving when they went out,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Sharon Wilsnack, Ph.D., professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of North Dakota, who studies women and alcohol. Now, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s culturally acceptable for a woman to drive while her date or boyfriend rides shotgun.
You can also blame the popularity of female-oriented social gatherings centered around alcohol: think girls' nights out, bar-hopping birthday celebrations, and boozy book-club get-togethers. Bars and restaurants are catering to the uptick in female drinkers with Ã¢â‚¬Å“skinnyÃ¢â‚¬Â shots and dessert shooters. Recent studies even show that binge drinking among college women now exceeds that of college guys. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Women are more likely to have their first drink at a younger age, and fewer women are abstaining from drinking alcohol,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Robertson. And the more a woman imbibes, the higher her odds of being slapped with a DUI.
Female biology also plays a role. Because women are smaller than men on average and their bodies contain a lower percentage of water (which can dilute the effects of alcohol), it takes fewer drinks for a woman to reach that 0.08 blood-alcohol threshold. The typical guy can suck down a few beers socially with his buddies in two hours and still be well under the legal limit. But a 130-pound woman is likely to clock in at 0.08 after the same two beers (or two 5-ounce glasses of wine, or two shots, as all have the same amount of pure alcohol). In fact, she might even reach 0.08 after just one drink if she consumes it on an empty stomach or pounds it back quickly so it floods her bloodstream all at once, says Wilsnack.
This is one girl trend you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be part of, so if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re meeting friends for happy hour or heading to a partyÃ¢â‚¬”and driving yourself home is your only optionÃ¢â‚¬”play it safe by sticking to one drink per hour max, preferably something like light beer or wine, which are designed to be sipped slowly. Limit yourself to two drinks total the entire evening, giving your system time to clear the alcohol before you put your key in the ignition. If you mess up? Call a sober friendÃ¢â‚¬Â¦or a taxi. Because if you hit the road when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re even slightly buzzed, ending up with a DUI could sadly become your best-case scenario.