Road Safety News

New report highlights growing problem of women drink driving

Tuesday 9th September 2014

 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.


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After an accident and the driver has technically been over the limit, is that where the investigation of the real causes of the accident stops? After all, perfectly sober drivers have accidents. Having a drink does not make you immune from making the same mistakes as when sober. Easy to fiddle statistics to meet government propaganda targets and please those dour people that want to force us to live the life of total abstinence.
Terry Hudson, Kent

Agree (0) | Disagree (8)

Again there is nothing new in the report. All it is doing is highlighting what has been known for years, there is a difference in the metabolic rates between men and women with regard to alcohol. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and the vast majority of the drinking British public will continue to remain ignorant of the facts. Why have the Government not adopted the North recommendations, surely it's not to do with tax revenue from alcohol compared to the adverse costs of alcohol on society being greatly disproportionate.

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

PACTS was pleased to be able to help launch this report. DfT Minister Claire Perry got it off to a good start by delivering the opening remarks. We have had very positive feedback from those who attended.
David Davies, London

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The issues identified in this report are not just cultural. The researchers highlight the physiological differences between men and women as to how they are able to absorb and process alcohol. The current blood alcohol limit seems to have been based on the rate of absorption and process in the male body. Womenís body chemistry means that they process alcohol differently, so alcohol gets into their blood more quickly, therefore their blood alcohol level will rise more quickly than a manís. It also means that a woman may have had less to drink than a man but her blood alcohol may be higher than his. This study shows that many women convicted of drink driving were doing so as part of a couple, not realising this Ė they thought they had had less to drink and were better placed to drive.

The only safe amount is none Ė if you are driving donít drink. It is also high time that the government adopted the recommendations in the North Report and reduced the legal limit from 80 to 50, to reinforce that drink and driving do not mix.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

A recent article in a national paper was all about drinking before drinking, ie 50% of women may be drunk before they go out as they drink whilst preparing themselves for that night out. I am sure that males will do similar. Something this new generation does as of a norm. No excuse though for drink driving but it has been perceived usually as following a night out when offences are committed and the danger exists, not previous to it.
bob craven Lancs

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Back around 1997 I was involved in a local road safety unit's drink driver rehabilitation programme, delivering programmes to drink drive offenders. The findings of the report is nothing new, it just seems to be made a recent study. I remember telling clients then that those with the biggest problem with drink driving is moving towards the female. Continuing equality in the workplace leading to improved disposable income and freedom (as it should be). The downside more disposable income on the British pastime drinking. Why has it taken so long for people to recognise this problem? It was obvious that increased drink driving convictions would follow.

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