Female Drunk Driving Arrests Surge

By Will Godfrey 12/06/11

High profile cases like Diane Schuler are part of a trend of DUIs for relatively older and better educated women.

36-year-old mom Diane Schuler killed eight
people, including herself, in 2009.
Photo via

It seems deadly drunk driver Diane Schuler was part of a trend. Arrests of women for drunk driving are up 36% in the last decade, according to a Traffic Injury Research Foundation report released today. Drunk driving is traditionally male-dominated: just 9% of those arrested for the crime back in the '80s were women. But by 2004, this percentage had risen to 20%. Speculated reasons for this include the changing roles of women in society, a relative drop in male drunk driving arrests, and changes in police practice that mean women are more likely to be detected and arrested. Female drunk drivers tend to be older and more highly educated—but lower paid—than their male counterparts: the average first-time female offender is 31. This fits women's tendency to develop substance abuse problems later in life than men, on average. (But once they begin, alcohol problems progress more rapidly in women, who require medical intervention a startling average four years sooner than men, the report notes.) Female drunk drivers are disproportionately likely to be single, separated or divorced—or living with a partner with an alcohol problem. Diagnoses of anxiety, depression and PTSD are common. The report notes that little research has been conducted on the specific effectiveness of drunk driving programs and interventions for women. Drunk female drivers were involved in 1,837 road deaths in 2008. But despite evidence of a narrowing gap, men still have the bigger problem.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.