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10 December 2007

Christmas Drinking turns women into dangerous dolls

Full research overview and regional breakdown follows at the end of the release

Whether it’s party girls out on the town or stay at home Bridget Joneses, the one thing in common among UK women’s love of Chardonnay or Chablis is that it can tragically turn them into dangerous DOLLs (Drivers Over the Legal Limit).

According to new research by Autoglass , it’s the run-up to Christmas when women are most likely to risk their licence, their lives and the lives of others by drink driving. Over 40 per cent of those polled said that they are more likely to get behind the wheel after having one too many over the festive season, compared to 36 per cent of men. With stronger wine now available, many women may not even realise that a glass or two can put them over the legal blood alcohol limit. In addition, 54 per cent of those women polled did not know how much alcohol they could drink before reaching the legal limit.

Some 14 per cent of women have drunk more than two glasses of alcohol before driving home from a friend’s house, while 14 per cent also admit to having driven home from a night out after supping a couple of drinks. Worryingly, one in three admit to having driven hung over the morning after drinking six or more units of alcohol on the previous night. This is despite warnings by experts that it takes an hour for even the tiniest glass of wine to leave the system. The poll also revealed that around one in 12 women (8 per cent) admits to drinking and driving at least once every two months.
In recent years the number of women found guilty of drink driving has soared, with more than 10,000 women found guilty of drink driving offences in 2006 .

Rachel Seabrook from the Institute of Alcohol Studies says: “A lot of people don’t realise, or forget, that alcohol can stay in their systems for a long time. On average, the body can process one unit of alcohol per hour. This means that if you get through a bottle of wine in an evening, it can still be affecting you at nine or ten o’clock the next morning. The more you drink, the longer it takes your body to get rid of the alcohol.

“While men mostly drink beer, women are more likely to drink wine. This makes it more difficult to keep track of how much they are drinking, because while it might be common knowledge that there is one unit of alcohol in a glass of wine, this simply isn’t true these days. Wine is being served in bigger and bigger glasses, so that a standard glass of wine now contains more than two units and a large glass contains more than three units of alcohol. This means that a woman who has drunk a glass or two of chardonnay may think she’ll be under the limit, but actually she’s drunk two or three times as much alcohol as she thinks she has.

“We may like to think that women are equal to men in all things, but when it comes to alcohol, there are biological differences that we can’t get away from. Women are smaller on average than men, so there is less physical frame to absorb the alcohol. Also women have on average 10 per cent more fat than men. This means there is less bodily fluid to dilute alcohol, so it travels around women’s bodies in a more concentrated form. The end result is that, however small in quantity, alcohol affects women faster and also takes longer to leave the system, particularly after heavy drinking sessions.”

The research also found that while women are willing to take more of a risk at Christmas, men are still the worst when it comes to the total units of alcohol they will consume before jumping into the car. 20 per cent of those surveyed admitted to getting into the car the next morning after having more than 14 units to drink the night before, while one in three admit to regularly driving after they’ve had a drink.

The Autoglass research comes at a time when the Government is considering cutting the legal alcohol limit from 80mg in 100ml of blood to 50mg. The reduction would bring Britain in to line with other European countries and could see drivers over the legal threshold after a single drink. Police could also be given powers to stop and breathalyse drivers at random, even if their driving gives no cause for concern.

Nigel Doggett, managing director of Autoglass , says: “With 3,000 people killed or seriously injured each year in drink drive collisions, we are extremely shocked by these latest findings and fully support the Government’s plans to reduce the alcohol limit further.

“It seems that for many drivers, Christmas is the one time of year when they are prepared to put themselves and others at unnecessary risk by drinking and driving and worryingly for women, just one glass of wine can make a dangerous difference. We urge all drivers to understand that if they want to drink, it is important they don’t drive, at Christmas and indeed all year round.”



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