Road safety campaigners are targeting female motorists this Christmas. According to an AA study it was seen that the fall in the number of men who failed the breath test after an accident was 17.6 per cent during 2010-2013 as opposed to a 5.9 per cent fall in women failing the test.
According to a study by the Social Research Associates (SRA), over the past 15 years the percentage of women convicted for drink driving have increased from 9 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2012.
The research also indicates that one in six female drivers feel that they have driven over the drinking and driving limit in the past one year and the number of women being admitted to NHS hospitals in England due to alcohol related health problems has increased from 200,000 admissions in 2002 to 437,000 in 2010.
Kris Beuret, director of SRA and co-author of the report feels the increase in women drinking reflects the changing role of women in society. Now, many more women are economically equal to men in addition to becoming socially independent and professionally employed as compared to before with a greater acceptability of women drinking on par with men. Worrying this also means more women are bring convicted in the magistrates court for drink driving related offences and being banned from driving.
Recent statistics highlight that 53 percent of women who drank alcohol in the past week had drunk more than the recommended amount per day and about 24 percent drank twice as more. According to Moira Plant, Professor of Alcohol Studies at the University of the West of England, previously getting drunk was not something a woman would boast about but with the onset of the ‘ladette culture’ in the 90’s, this is something that is changed for women of all age groups. Female drinking statistics saw an increase at that time. According to Plant, as alcohol prices fell people drank more and its availability in supermarkets made it easier to purchase and the best way to deter people from drinking and driving is by random checks and not just during Christmas.
According to Beuret’s research, among those women who were breath-tested after an accident, women above the age of 40 were more likely to have a high alcohol level. Sheffield resident Rocca, believes that these drinking and driving statistics are indicative of an unseen drinking problem. Beuret also points out that mostly women are not aware about how much they can drink for a safe drive. Thus the figure of one out of six women admitting their driving over the limit could be higher. There however cannot be an official guidance on the amount an average man or woman can drink because different factors like weight, sex, when you last ate, stress levels influence the amount of alcohol that should be consumed.
Statistics also reveal that women in managerial and professional positions drink more units of alcohol than the average female and more frequently during the week.
The UK saw in 2009 female convictions for drinking and driving peaking up to 12, 663 compared to 193 in 1966. In 2011 there were 9380 convictions for the same. However Beuret feels that the decline in figures need not necessarily be attributable to the reduction in driving and driving in women but might be due to the fact that they are not caught. According to her women need to be told on how judgments are impaired due to alcohol and that advertisements should start targeting women drivers instead of male ones.
Mel Hurd, 34, an administrator at a transport company, had received a 17-month driving ban and a £450 fine and was asked to attend a £150 drink- driving rehabilitation course after having being convicted for drink-driving. After narrating her incident Mel mentioned that she had decided not to indulge in drinking and driving again as it was not worth it.
A spokesman from the Government’s THINK! drink-drive campaign confirms that men aged between 17-29 continue to be the core target audience and that men account for two-thirds of accidents caused due to drinking and driving. However this year their target is also focussed on women to ensure that driving with excess alcohol remains socially unacceptable The SRA research also suggested that over the age of 30, women were more likely to be over the prescribed limit of drinking and driving than men. When questioned a variety of reasons came up including unexpected calls from teenage children who needed to be picked up to not wanting to use public transport late at night.
50 years ago saw the first drink driving ad in which men were targeted as the one’s responsible for any causalities and women were told to ensure that men don’t drive after drinking. However, THINK has released new campaigns to register with both men and women. Though the number of woman drivers has increased from 9.2 million to 16.3 million between 1995 and 2010, men still account for 83 per cent of the drink-drive convictions. Edmund King, AA President however feels that it is important to highlight that with reference to women drivers there has been a delayed improvement rate in the recent years and in some age groups signs of regression have been seen. He feels this could be due to the fact that women mostly become the designated drivers when their partners announce they are above the drinking and driving limit.
In light of the Christmas and New Year season, the police are preparing for the annual drink-drive campaign. Controversially, according to a spokeswoman for Dorset police, names of those who are charged with drink driving will be released to the media as had been done last year in the hope it would “spread the message of not drinking and driving”.
Criminal Barrister’s view:
Whilst it is recognised that there is pressing need for deterring drink driving offending, and statistics show that effect campaigning does have an impact on numbers, it is questionable as to whether “naming and shaming” has the same effect. The majority of drink driving offenders are not habitual or repeat offenders and in any event almost always are banned from driving, or at worse sent to prison. As with other similar initiatives such as “naming and shaming” ASBO’s its likely that this will humiliate rather than deter. Precious police resources are always better spent on educating the public as these studies have shown.