Newswise — Women have become increasingly involved in drunk driving and fatal crashes. However, much of the research on drunk driving has been conducted using predominantly male samples. Little is known about the life context, psychiatric histories, and family backgrounds of women arrested for drunk driving. This study was based on interviews with women arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI); the study also compared women with single DUIs with those who had multiple DUI convictions.

Researchers used publicly available court records posted on the internet and driver’s license records to identify women in Missouri with documented DUI convictions. Telephone interviews were completed with 100 women between 21 and 52 years of age: 36 women with one DUI, and 64 with two or more DUIs. The diagnostic telephone interview also assessed demographics, alcohol use and related problems, psychiatric problems, treatment, and partner violence.

In this study sample, multiple DUIs were a marker of more severe alcohol-related problems.  Women with multiple DUIs had significantly higher alcohol-use severity and prevalence of both head injuries and partners with alcohol-related problems than women with a single DUI. Other life events, including marital status, the number of children, partner violence, and childhood trauma, were not associated with the number of DUIs.

The authors concluded that DUI recidivism in women is largely due to alcohol-related severity, rather than previous life events.  They recommended that future research on this population include assessments of head injury, social-network support, and early family-life context, which could yield further insights into female DUI offenders and have implications for the prevention of DUI recidivism in women.

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