Levels are not falling quickly enough, according to the Police Federation of England and Wales, who want to crack down on female drink-drivers.
Research shows women now account for 17 per cent of convictions, compared with just nine per cent in 1998. Academics suggest the drastic increase is partly because women think they are less likely to be stopped by the police.
Holly*, 34, was one of those women – until she was arrested for drink-driving 10 years ago.
Here she tells Telegraph Wonder Women what happened:
It was back when I was 24 years old. I’d been at a friend’s house party where we’d been drinking all night and into the early hours. In the morning, I had to move my car off the driveway to let someone else get theirs out.
It was about 8am and I’d been asleep for two hours. I did feel like I was still a bit drunk but I wasn’t really thinking about it properly. I shouldn’t have done it really. But I got in the car thinking, it’s only around the corner, I’ll be fine.
Only, as I moved the car round the corner, I was pulled over by a policeman and breathalysed. It showed I was more than three times over the legal limit.
I was horrified. I was taken to the police station where I had to do another breathalyser test, have my fingerprints taken and was put in a cell for a few hours. I remember crying and couldn’t believe that this had happened. When I moved my car, the thought that I could be over the limit just hadn’t occurred to me.
I don’t think I thought about it rationally. Or you think it won’t happen to you, you’re not going to hurt anybody. I know I felt tired and groggy but because I’d had some sleep and I’d stopped drinking about 1am, I thought I’d slept it off.
I wouldn’t have got in the car and driven 20 miles down the road. But I thought I’d be alright to drive around the corner. When the police officer came over, I didn’t even think he was going to say anything about drink driving. He’d seen me get into the car in my pyjamas without any shoes on, so I thought that was the problem.
When he said, ‘do you know why I have pulled you over?’ I said, ‘because I’m not wearing shoes’. He laughed but I genuinely thought that’s what it was. I wasn’t stumbling around drunk. I’d never done it before. I’m not a person that takes massive risks.
I carried the shame for months
Then he asked me whether I’d been drinking. My first thought was ‘no, of course not’ as it had been hours since my last alcoholic drink and at the time I had no idea that alcohol could stay in my system for that long. But the breathalyser test proved otherwise.
The next few months were the hardest part. It was the shame and embarrassment of telling my parents and work. I was worried; I was scared for two to three months before I had to go to court. I was still carrying the shame.
You try and justify it to yourself but as soon as people know, the details are irrelevant. You have drunk driven and you have broken the law. It was so hard – I felt like everyone was judging me. Maybe they weren’t, but I would have judged people for drink driving, so I felt like they were doing the same.
I even had to go to a tribunal at work. I could have got the sack. In the end, I was put on probation for two years. When my case went to court, I was eventually banned from driving for three years, given a £350 fine and received three points on my driving licence.
My friends still do it
As part of my punishment I also opted to take part in a drink drive education course, which taught me how to work out how much it’s safe to drink before driving. If I hadn’t have done the drink driving course and learnt how long alcohol still stays in your system, I probably would have done it again. Now I won’t drive home the next morning, or drop my friends off. You think, after a good night’s sleep I’ll be alright, but that’s not the case.
I know lots of my friends do it because they don’t know there’s still alcohol in their system. I tell them, ‘you know, you’ll still have booze in you’, and they say, ‘don’t be ridiculous’. They think I’m being mumsy, or trying to be their parent.
When we go to Glastonbury festival, all my friends drink the day before and all that night, and I say, ‘you’re going to drive home for six hours’. I wouldn’t preach to anybody but all I can say is, don’t forget you drank the day before. I normally end up doing the driving now.
I really think that this should be part of driving lessons. You do under the bonnet stuff, but I don’t recall getting tested on alcohol limits. There should be more focus on the effect of drink and drugs before you pass your test.
It affects your whole life
Even now, 10 years later, it still makes an impact on where I go on holiday. You can’t just forget about it. You have a constant reminder. When it comes to job applications, holidays… everything in your life can be messed up because of that one act.
It affects your whole life. When I went travelling it was hell because of my criminal record. I could have been refused entry into other countries. It’s an inconvenience you put on yourself. This is what people need to hear.
Saying you can kill someone, or hurt someone in an accident, sounds dramatic. It sounds so far from reality. It’s like when you smoke you can’t see you’re killing yourself inside. But there are other consequences that inconvenience your life and your parents’ lives. You need to remember that.