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Alcohol and young women drivers: a deadly combination

February 18, 2010 |  1:51 pm

Drinking and driving is always a concern with young people, but a new study shows there may be fewer reasons to worry about young male drivers and more reasons to be concerned about young female drivers. Alcohol is becoming more of a factor in car crashes involving young women.

Gi80n5kf Researchers from UC San Diego, UC Irvine and Yale University looked at data on fatal road traffic collisions from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1995 to 2007 and broke young drivers down into the following age categories: 16, 17, 18, 19-20, and 21-24. During that time, 179,891 drivers age 16 to 24 were involved in fatal accidents. Overall, more men than women were involved in crashes.

However, when broken down, the numbers tell more: Rates for fatal crashes for young men fell by 2.5 crashes per 100,000 per year, decreased in men up to the age of 20, and stayed steady for ages 21 to 24. Rates for young women decreased by 0.8 per 100,000 for 16-year-olds, didn't change for 17 and 18-year-olds, and increased 0.7 for 19 and 20-year-olds and 0.6 for 21 to 24-year-olds.

The number of young women involved in fatal crashes who had a positive blood alcohol test also increased proportionately over young men--3.1% versus 1.2%. The biggest increase in all deadly crashes was seen in the number of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15% of more -- almost twice the legal limit in California, which is .08%. For men that rose 2.4%, for women, 2%.

In the study, the authors note that substance abuse is growing among young women, and write, "Overall, these findings should raise the urgency of implementing effective gender-specific countermeasures to alcohol-impaired driving, including messages and education targeted to women in this age group."

The study was released today in the journal Injury Prevention.

--Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Steve Osman / Los Angeles Times