Women drivers fail the booze test

2008-05-23 00:00

The number of women who are being charged for drinking and driving has increased almost tenfold in as many years. [What do you think? SMS 33358. Keyword: booze]

According to KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate director John Schnell, the number of young, independent women driving their own cars has escalated and with it the number of females being apprehended at roadblocks. Whereas in the past, heavy drinking was a young guy’s thing, these lines have now blurred.

More young women are either joining the boys for after work drinks or partying on the weekend and driving home alone.

“This is one area in which we are not equal,” Schnell said, saying that because of their slighter build, women cannot match their male counterparts drink for drink.

He said that women also eat less and skip meals, which often means they absorb alcohol far faster. It also takes longer for their bodies to metabolise the alcohol and return to an acceptable level.

According to South Africans Against Drunk Driving, women are affected more, quicker and by smaller amounts of alcohol than men, so need to drink less and more slowly than men.

For example, a woman who weighs 45 kg and drinks one glass of wine would test at 0,045 g. If she had not had anything to eat, she could be over the legal limit.

Nightclub owners confirmed that women leaving clubs have had as much to drink as their male friends, if not more. One suggested that the bottled “alco-pops” that many women drink have a higher alcohol content than beer.

Schnell said that at present, around 10% of drunken driving cases involve women, whereas in the past this was below one percent. When the Draegher breathalyser test was introduced in 1996, authorities were asked to contribute to a study by submitting body statistics. He said they could not supply sufficient data on women because there were not enough cases.

Today it is very different. He said that in the early hours of the morning, officers are seeing more slightly built women tottering around in heels trying to prove they can walk along a white line. This is a visible test used by officers who do not have a breathalyser to determine whether further testing is necessary.

Schnell said the greatest concern is not only that more women are driving on their own, but that they are more vulnerable to danger after having had too much to drink.

“The fact is that a person under the influence, whether male or female, stands to be the loser and that is what we are trying to stop. Through our operations, we are trying to provide a deterrent,” he said.

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