The drunken-driving arrest of a Federal Aviation Administration chief isn’t the only news today about drinking behind the wheel. The number of drunken-driving arrests for women has shot up in recent years according to a study being released today by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
They’ve increased 36 percent over the last decade.
In case you’re thinking about having a glass of wine or two before bringing your child to a friend’s house, here’s more to ruin the idea: The study also found that the average female drunk driver is older and better educated than her male counterparts. They also tend to hold lower-paying jobs and be primary caregivers to children.
That profile wasn’t a shock to researchers since the study, funded by the distillers’ association The Century Council, was triggered by the attention-getting accident in 2009 when a mother, Diane Schuler, drove her minivan down the wrong side of a New York highway. She caused a crash that killed herself, her daughter, her three nieces and three men in another car. It was later determined that she had been drunk and high.
Schuler’s was an extreme case that jolted attention to the unspoken truth that some parents drink to excess while caring for their children. Upsetting as it was, though, the news left many parents thinking that her drinking shared no resemblance to their own. A glass or two of wine during the day didn’t seem in the same league. What today’s study reveals is that mothering and drinking may be a more common problem than we realize.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is a popular blogger and author of Naptime is the New Happy Hour (Gallery, 2008) who, after first writing about embracing a drink or two to deal with child-rearing stress, later revealed to readers that she had become addicted to alcohol. Her blog now includes a special section for confessions from other parents who have realized their drinking has become problematic.
One recent entry: “I joke around a lot and talk about drinking more than I actually do it; I exaggerate when I’ve had a bad day and say things like, ‘I want to drink my body weight in alcohol,’ and it’s funny. I’m being sarcastic and it’s funny, and everyone laughs. Except it stopped being funny. I can control myself some of the time, which is why it’s been so easy to rationalize why I continue to drink.”
Wilder-Taylor will be part of a panel in Washington today to analyze the drunk-driving survey further. I plan to attend and write more about the issue later this week.
In the meantime, let me know how you feel about the current jokey attitude toward drinking-while-parenting. Is it a part of a long tradition of parental cocktail hours, a helpful stress relief reminding us that all parents could use some self-medication? Or does it excuse, maybe even encourage, dangerous behavior?