the number of women convicted for drink-driving has risen in recent years and now represents nearly a fifth of the total, a new survey has revealed.
Women accounted for nine per cent of drink-drive convictions in 1998, but this figure had risen to 17 per cent by 2012, according to Direct Line.
Despite the overall number of drink-driving convictions falling sharply during this period, 9,580 women were convicted for being over the limit in 2012 compared with 8,380 in 1998.
The car insurance firm says this is partly due to “a lack of awareness and confusion as to what constitutes drink-driving” and societal changes that mean women are now more likely to drive home after a night out.
Research by Direct Line and transport organisation the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund shows that 17 per cent of female motorists thought they had driven while over the legal alcohol limit in the past year.
As many as 60 per cent of the women polled said they did not know the legal limit and in almost all cases, respondents felt they were personally able to drink more alcohol than the “average woman” before they were over the legal limit.
Among the women who admitted to drink-driving, the most common reason for doing so was because they felt physically “okay” to drive, as cited by 59 per cent.
Almost a third, 31 per cent, thought it would be fine if they just drove carefully, while 17 per cent felt they had no alternative other than to drink and drive, often due to “family emergencies”.
A further 14 per cent said they drove while over the limit because they thought there was little risk of being caught.
Direct Line said that, taking account of the number of miles driven, women are proportionately more likely to be over the legal limit while driving than men from the age of 30.
Last month, a female drink-driver who fled the scene after crashing her Range Rover into a wall and killing her friend while twice the legal limit was jailed.
Debbie Barker was sentenced to three years in jail for getting behind the wheel drunk and causing the crash which led to the death of her close friend, North Yorkshire hotelier Thomas Bannister, then taking off and failing to alert emergency services.
Road safety minister Robert Goodwill said: “Drink-driving wrecks lives, and the personal consequences of a drink-drive conviction can be devastating. In 2013, 803 women failed a breathalyser test after an accident and that is 803 too many.
“That is why we are cracking down on the minority who drink and drive by introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and closing loopholes in the law to make it easier for police to prosecute drink-drivers, as well as tackling the menace of those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs. Later this year we will launch the next phase of the THINK! campaign on drink-driving. So our advice is simple; if you are driving have none for the road, as one drink can put you over the limit.”
Steve Maddock, managing director of claims at Direct Line Group, said: “The issue of women and drink-driving is rarely addressed, but when we look at the figures, we can see that this is a real issue.
“Part of the problem is a lack of awareness and confusion as to what constitutes drink-driving and also the misguided belief that in some circumstances, driving while over the limit can be justified.”