Auto Club Analysis: DUI Crashes For Young California Women Jump Dramatically

(COSTA MESA, Dec. 10, 2008)An analysis of California drinking and driving data from 1998 to 2007 shows that alcohol-related crashes involving young adult women drivers soared, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club found that women drivers ages 21-24 involved in fatal and injury alcohol-related crashes more than doubled – rising by 116%. The Auto Club analysis also showed their male counterparts’ crashes during the same period rose 39%.

The analysis also shows that young adult women drivers, passengers and pedestrians’ alcohol-related deaths and injuries have risen substantially – by nearly half since 1998 when 1,037 women ages 21-24 were killed and injured in alcohol-related crashes. In 2007, the level had risen by 46% to 1,515 in 2007, according to the Auto Club.

The Auto Club analysis of California Highway Patrol data of the last 10 years shows that women far outpaced men the same age in alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Alcohol-related deaths and injuries of men ages 21-24 increased by 18% compared to the 46% for women.

The findings were announced today at the first Orange County Drinking and Driving Community Forum. Attending the forum were traffic safety, health care and law enforcement professionals from around the Southland who heard presentations from local, state and national experts on various aspects of impaired driving. The Orange County Drinking and Driving 2008 Community Forum is a partnership among the Auto Club, the Costa Mesa DUI Task Force, the County of Orange Health Care Agency Alcohol and Drug Education Prevention Team (ADEPT) and the UCI Center for Trauma and Injury Prevention Research.

The Auto Club analysis also showed a notable increase in alcohol-related crashes among female drivers 18-20. Women drivers ages 18-20 were involved in 74% more alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes in 2007 than in 1998. Male drivers increased their crashes by 27%. About 2,200 California drivers ages 18-20 are in alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes annually.

“The analysis shows that young women are rapidly catching up with men in terms of risk-taking behavior and incurring the consequences of risk-taking, such as alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes,” said Steven A. Bloch, Ph.D., Auto Club senior traffic safety researcher, who discussed the analysis at the forum. “Reasons for this include the increase in the number of women obtaining drivers’ licenses, women driving more miles and driving more aggressively like their male counterparts.”

Driver licenses for young women ages 21-24 increased 28% from 1998-2007 while their male counterparts’ licensure increased 20%, according to the Auto Club analysis.

“These numbers suggest a significant change in our driving culture overall,” Bloch added, “Despite the $13,500 to $15,000 in fines, fees and penalties associated with a DUI conviction and the threat of death or injury, young women in particular are increasingly driving in a more risky fashion. As the holiday party season gets underway, these statistics should serve as a serious warning for young adults.”

In addition to the Auto Club analysis, Dr. Federico Vaca of UCI’s Center for Trauma and Injury Prevention Research and UCI Medical Center’s Emergency Medicine Department, indicated today at the news conference that young adult women’s growing involvement in fatal traffic crashes nationwide have considerable implications for traffic safety social marketing campaigns, programs and interventions.

At the news conference, Costa Mesa Police Chief Christopher Shawkey described the city’s new beverage service training program that works to prevent under age 21 patrons from being served alcohol at Costa Mesa’s restaurants and bars. Training is free for local establishments.

Patrice Rogers of the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles reviewed DUI initiatives for the 21-34 age group recently developed for the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. This initiative is one of 17 “challenges” in the plan to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and injuries on public roads.