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Women DUIs Are Up

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, August 07, 2009 5:40 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: DUI, NHTSA, Driving Impaired, Drunk Driving, Auto Accidents, Head-On, Schuler

Wrong-way crash mom, part of a trend of female drivers impaired by alcohol.


IMAGE SOURCE: Newsday Web site, minivan of Diane Schuler, July 26, 2009

The ultimate form of child abuse.

That is what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) CEO Chuck Hurley says about mothers who drive drunk with kids in the car.

Associated Press reports that the number of women arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was nearly 30 percent higher in 2007 than a decade ago, but still less than men arrested for DUI. Salon reports 18.8 percent of California DUIs were female.

Meanwhile the number of men driving while intoxicated has decreased 7.5 percent, according to FBI figures covering about half of the country, as quoted by AP.

The family of Diane Schuler, who caused a head-on which killed seven people and herself, denied she had a drinking problem during a press conference on Thursday. Her husband says a medical condition must have caused her condition and he had never seen her drunk.

“She was not a drinker. She was not an alcoholic,” said a tearful Daniel Schuler at a news conference. He believes she must have had a stroke. Police say Schuler had downed more than 10 vodkas before driving her minivan with five children inside head-on into a SUV, killing three men on July 26.

In Westchester County, where the Schuler crash occurred, police say women arrested for DUI is up two percent this year alone and more children are being found in the cars.

On average, MADD reports it receives 17,000 child endangerment calls annually from individuals concerned about children riding with alcohol impaired drivers.

Women have a tendency to drink alone and at home and are less likely to seek help, according to Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York, speaking to Associated Press.

"Our society has taught us that women have an extra burden to be the perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect daughters and perfect everything," Levounis said. "They tend to go to great lengths to keep everything intact from an external viewpoint while internally, they are in ruins."

The current recession may be increasing the pressures on working moms.

There's the impression out there that drunk driving is strictly a male issue, and it is certainly not the case," said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "There are a number of parts of the country where, in fact, the majority of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes are female."

Male arrests for DUI still outpace female, but the gap is narrowing as women feel more empowered and also more pressure from work and home responsibilities.

One federal study found that alcohol abuse, defined as at least four drinks a day, rose from 1.5 to 2.6 percent over ten years ending in 2002. For the ages of 30 to 44, the number more than doubled from 1.5 to 3.3 percent. Schuler was 36-years-old.

Many of these women are driving with children in their car, including Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia’s daughter, pulled over in a Chicago suburb with three kids in the car. She pled guilty to drunk driving and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2007, 250 youngsters were killed in alcohol-related crashes, most of them passengers in a car with an impaired driver.

The problem is so notable that the annual Transportation Department’s crackdown on DUI in late August, will focus on women. #

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