Significantly more women are being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California, according to an analysis of Department of Motor Vehicles data performed by the KPCC public radio station.
Women accounted for about 11% of DUI arrests in 1989, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and that number increased to about 24% in 2011, which is the last year for which statistics are available.
“They were somewhat stable in the 1980s and then began to go up and just accelerated, particularly from 1999 to 2011,” said Steven Bloch, senior research associate with the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Young women were largely responsible for the increase in statewide DUI arrests in that time period. In Los Angeles County, DUI arrests of women ages 21 to 30 years old jumped by about 134% from 1999 to 2011.
Another group that stood out during the same period was women over the age of 50:
- Arrests of women age 51 to 60 years old rose by 81%.
- Arrests of female drivers age 61 to 70 climbed by 67%.
- Women older than 70 saw a 76% increase in DUI arrests.
Conversely, overall DUI arrests for male drivers in L.A. County fell from 1999 to 2011, with the only age group seeing an increase being men between the age of 51 to 70 years old.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation found similar results in a survey of women arrested for driving under the influence in California, Michigan, Missouri, and New York.
“We don’t know if more women are drinking and driving,” Erin Holmes, who is with the foundation, said. “All we do know is that more women are being arrested.”
Researchers have yet to come up with a definitive reason to explain the rise. One explanation is that law enforcement has made it a priority to get impaired drivers off the roads.