Researchers say women who are trying to "keep pace" with men may be more susceptible to the cognitive effects of alcohol.

A new study from Ottawa's Traffic Injury Research Foundation has found that women now account for one in five impaired driving incidents in Canada, which is up significantly from 1986, when that number was one in 13.

Interestingly, the study finds that the number of reported drinking-and-driving incidents among women has stayed the same over the years, but that more women are now being charged, and more are being killed as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Single, unmarried, or divorced women tend to be more likely to drive after drinking, though women are more likely than men to have children under 14 years of age in the car after drinking.

The study states numerous reasons why the number of impaired driving incidents has increased so dramatically over the years. Women who participated mention several factors, from peer pressure and impaired judgement, to lack of transportation and mental health issues.

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The study also notes that historically, prevention messaging has been aimed at males - think back to any "don't drink and drive" commercials you've seen over the years, and we're guessing the majority of them revolve around males. There are also physiological factors - women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men. They point to research that says women have a smaller proportion of body water compared to fat, meaning there's less water in their body with which to dilute alcohol into the bloodstream.

This, then, leads to higher blood alcohol content (BAC) levels compared to men when drinking the same amount of alcohol. Researchers say women who are trying to "keep pace" with men may be more susceptible to the cognitive effects of alcohol. And since ads often focus on a standard number of drinks - aimed at the alcohol metabolism of the average male - that can cause impairment, there could be even more negative consequences in regards to females drinking and driving.

The study states that both men and women often overestimate how quickly they're sobering up. A driver who was been drinking may think they're okay to drive, when in fact they're still over the legal BAC limit.

TIRF summarizes by saying that while more in-depth research has happened in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, additional studies need to occur in Canada. Most importantly, TIRF states that "much work is needed to improve the development and delivery of tailored educational resources for women about this problem." 

Photo: Daniel Lane via Flickr

Source: Traffic Injury Research Foundation