I was in Los Angeles last week when I read a horrific news story in the Los Angeles Times about a wrong way drunk driver who collided head-on with another vehicle resulting in the death of six people. The driver of the red Camaro was speeding at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour when the accident occurred.
At first glance, I assumed that the wrong way driver was a young man because the car involved was a red "muscle car" and that the driver was speeding. I was wrong. The driver was 21-year-old Olivia Carolee Culbreath. All evidence points to the fact that Culbreath was driving under the influence at the time of the car accident. This was not her first driving under the influence arrest, she was convicted of drunk driving when she was 17 years old. Now she faces a lengthy jail term.
Prior to the horrific crash, at least 17 people had called 911 to alert authorities. Unfortunately, it appears that nothing could have been done to stop her that night. She killed a family of four and her own two passengers, one of which was her sister.
This accident points out the chilling fact that since the 1980s, the number of women arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) are female. Women are more likely to be using another substance and have mental disorders than males arrested for DUI.
In the greater Seattle area, we have had a few incidents of female wrong way female drunk drivers. In one, incident, a 60-year-old woman drove more than 17 miles on Interstate 5 in the wrong direction. In January of this year, a woman was arrested in downtown Seattle after driving the wrong way on Interstate 5 in the early morning hours. In September of 2013, Kelly Ann Hudson was convicted of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault for killing an 81-year-old Kirkland woman and critically injuring one other person. Hudson was drunk and under the influence of prescription drugs when her car crossed the centerline and struck a small car head-on.
Women and Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is the number one reason women come into contact with the criminal justice system. Nationally, arrests for drunk driving is on the rise in the female population and has risen from the single digit numbers in the 80's to almost 30% in 2007. In 2008, the Federal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) revealed that 1,837 people were killed in car accidents involving females driving under the influence.
A North Carolina study showed that between 1976-1985, alcohol-related crashes rose in the female population compared with a 27% decline among males in the same age group.
The following are some characteristics of female drunk drivers:
- A New Mexico study found that 85% of females convicted of DUI had a alcohol problem.
- Female DUI offenders are often diagnosed with a problem with opiates or other medications.
- The average age of a female on their first DUI is 31. However, there seems to be a trend in which young women are being involved in risky driving behaviors.
- Female DUI drivers are more likely to be single or divorced.
- A 2000 New Mexico study revealed that females convicted of DUI have a lower recidivism rate than males but a more recent study in Maryland found no lower recidivism rate.