Data shows higher DWI rates among women; reasons unclear

Intoxicated driving arrests are on the rise among female drivers, according to a recent study, though experts disagree on the reasons behind the trend.

As reported recently by the Chicago Tribune, nearly one-fourth of U.S. drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2011 were women. Just a few decades ago, in the early 1980s, women accounted for only one-tenth of all DWI arrests nationwide.

While the trend itself appears clear - DWI arrests among women are increasing - controversy remains as to why this is the case. Because most DWI research in the past has focused primarily on male drivers, relatively little is known about intoxicated driving specifically among women. The Traffic Injury Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Canada, has taken steps to shed light on the subject by conducting interviews with women who have been arrested for DWI in the United States.

Opinions vary on reasons behind the trend

The TIRF study identified some commonalities among the 186 women who participated in the study, particularly with regard to stress. Remarkably, nearly all of the women in the study reported that they had experienced a stressful life event shortly before being arrested for DWI, such as job loss, divorce or the death of a family member. A majority of the drivers said they were also being treated for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions.

Some experts suggest that the rise in DWI rates among women may be due to a general increase in stress among the female population in the United States over the past few decades. With more and more women functioning as both breadwinners and caregivers in modern households, along with numerous other demanding roles, some say the added stresses of modern life could be increasing to higher alcohol consumption among women in general.

Others, however, say that women today simply drive more than their predecessors did and thus are more likely to be arrested for DWI even if their drinking habits have remained relatively unchanged.

Another factor that may play a role in the trend is the fact that today's DWI laws are stricter than they once were. This means that women who exceed the legal limit by only a small amount under today's laws would have been unlikely to face criminal charges under the old laws.

Texas DWI laws

In Texas, like other states, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. It is also a violation of Texas law to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, regardless of BAC level.

The penalties for a first-time DWI in Texas can be steep, including up to $2,000 in fines, license suspension for up to one year, and up to 180 days in jail. These penalties increase substantially for repeat convictions or for DWI offenses involving other factors such as the presence of a child in the vehicle or driving with an extremely high BAC level.

People who are arrested for DWI in Texas should seek help as soon as possible from a reputable criminal defense attorney who can advise them of their legal options and will work hard on their behalf to pursue a favorable outcome.