Rise in Drunken Driving Arrests of Women Deplored

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By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 20, 2009

They're doing it in front of TV cameras in Orange County, in New York, in Atlanta, even in New Jersey. Real housewives, sipping chardonnay, talking about their loves, their losses, their lives.

They don't talk about the handcuffs too often, but when reality hits the road, more women than ever are being arrested for driving drunk.

"TV shows have made it look hip and cool to stay home and drink," Laura Dean-Moody, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said Wednesday as she helped launch the annual Labor Day weekend crackdown.

It is neither hip nor cool, she pointed out, when women who have been drinking are involved in fatal accidents, which they are an average of about 2,000 times a year.

Although four times as many men as women are arrested nationwide for drunken driving, the number of women facing DUI charges increased by 29 percent during the decade that ended in 2007, a year when 162,493 women were arrested, according to FBI statistics. Arrests of men declined 7.5 percent during the same period.

In Virginia, the number of highway fatalities attributed to intoxicated female drivers dropped from 50 in 2007 to 34 last year; the number attributed to intoxicated men increased from 235 to 242. In Maryland, the number of intoxicated women involved in fatal crashes held steady at 16 from one year to the next; the number of intoxicated men dropped from 141 in 2007 to 122 last year.

No traffic fatalities in the District last year involved women; the number attributed to men dropped from 10 in 2007 to eight last year.

Dean-Moody was joined at the announcement of the national Labor Day weekend crackdown by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Capt. Susan H. Culin, commander of the Fairfax County police traffic division.

"Sadly, the number of arrests of women driving under the influence is on the rise," LaHood said. "This is clearly a very disturbing trend."

The annual effort, called Checkpoint Strikeforce, will include sobriety checkpoints in Maryland and Virginia. Maryland State Police plan to operate 30 of them.


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