Women Drivers

The simple life…

Those of us who remember watching a television series called The Simple Life might not be surprised to learn that socialite Nicole Richie is following in the footsteps of on-off best friend Paris Hilton by making a special guest appearance in a Hollywood courtroom for driving under the influence.

…gets a bit more complicated

The errant party princess was stopped in December of last year on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Suspicions were aroused by the fact that she was driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway before stopping altogether. She allegedly admitted to officers that she was under the influence of marijuana and her woes subsequently worsened when she was charged with being under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

This week she successfully managed to negotiate a postponement of her trial but insiders say it’s likely she will be receiving a custodial sentence. Richie will be on trial on Wednesday July 11th 2007 and a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office told Reuters that "she has two options: either she goes to trial or she changes her not guilty plea".

More women than ever drink-driving

Is drink-driving becoming a growing pursuit of women motorists, driving under the influence of these celebrity figureheads? It might not be fair to say that, but it is believed to be the case that an increasing number of women are being picked up for what has traditionally been a male-dominated offence.

Whatever the cause, it can be an expensive mistake. As well as adding thousands of pounds to the cost of car insurance premiums, it can also jeopardise the employment of those that drive for work – or indeed have to drive to work.

Government figures show that the number of women convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in England and Wales rose by 58 per cent in the period between 1995 and 2004. Of the 10,765 women convicted in 2004, more than a third were under the age of 30.

A problem that needs to be targeted

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael condemned what he saw as a disturbing trend in young women drivers. He said action needed to be taken to ensure young female drivers understand the dangers of drinking and driving: "Instead of focusing drink-driving campaigns only on men, these figures show women also need to be targeted. Drinking and driving must remain socially unacceptable"

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has warned that obtaining insurance after a driving ban can be difficult. Even if it is possible to get an insurer to offer you a deal, the cost can be prohibitive in itself.

Drink driving – an expensive mistake

According to the ABI, "drink-driving convictions are taken very seriously by insurers – convicted drivers returning to the roads may face difficulty in obtaining insurance and will certainly have to pay far higher premiums than before their conviction".

In an effort to curb the drink-driving problem, the government recently announced its intention to hold a nationwide consultation on reducing the alcohol limit for driving. If the proposals are approved and put into effect, it will mean that even having a single drink would render someone legally unfit to drive.

Don’t waste advantage of lower premiums

Earlier this week, the government published a review of discrimination law and the possibility of a single equality bill for Great Britain. Some were surprised to see that it supported the view that it is fair to use data on age and gender to determine certain premiums – such as car insurance.

Women have long benefited from being considered safer drivers and therefore a lower insurance risk. On average they pay less for their car insurance than a male of the same age and driving experience. As such – and aside from the obvious dangers of drink-driving – it would be a shame to see them throw that advantage away for the sake of a few drinks.

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