Young Women Who Drink and Drive at Higher Risk of Fatal Accident

TUESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Young women who drink and drive in the United States are at increasing risk for being in a fatal accident, according to a new study.

Although men had roughly double the risk for a fatal crash as women with the same blood-alcohol level in 1996, that gender gap had closed by 2007, the researchers pointed out. And although reasons for that trend remain unclear, they said it may be because young women are taking more risks on the road.

"Young women who drink and drive may be behaving more like young men who drink and drive," said the study's lead researcher, Robert Voas, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Md., in a news release from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Using data from a government reporting system on fatal traffic accidents across the country, researchers compared the blood-alcohol information from nearly 6,900 fatal crashes in 2006 with information from about 6,800 drivers who took part in a roadside survey in 2007.

The study, published in the May issue of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that regardless of drivers' age, their risk of being killed or being involved in a fatal crash increased as their blood alcohol levels climbed.

Drivers ranging from 16- to 20-years old with a blood-alcohol level of .02 percent to .049 percent had almost a three times higher risk of being involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers of similar age. Their odds of dying in a single-vehicle crash were almost four times greater, the study also revealed.

The study's authors added that the findings also showed the risk of a fatal car crash doubled for sober male drivers between 1996 and 2007. The researchers said distracted driving may well be the cause.

"Sober kids are more at risk, and we think it may be related to texting and the other new technologies they are using so much," said the study's co-author, Eduardo Romano, in the news release.

The researchers concluded drunk-driving and distracted-driving prevention education is needed for both boys and girls.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, news release, April 3, 2012