The risk of being in a fatal car crash has grown for underage females who've been drinking, according to a new study.
In 2007, underage female drinkers had the same risk as underage male drinkers, whereas a decade prior, the risk for females was half that of males, according to the study.
The reasons for the increased risk for females are not clear, but it could be that young women are taking greater chances on the road, the researchers said.
"Young women who drink and drive may be behaving more like young men who drink and drive," study researcher Robert B. Voas, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Md., said in a statement.
Still, the total number of young men involved in fatal alcohol-related wrecks is greater, because men drink more, Voas said.
The study also showed that, overall, a person's risk of being killed or involved in a fatal crash rose with drivers' blood-alcohol levels, regardless of their age.
Compared with sober drivers the same age, 16- to 20-year-olds who had a blood-alcohol level between .02 percent and .049 percent had nearly triple the risk of being in a fatal crash, and nearly quadruple the risk of dying in a single-vehicle crash.
Another finding of concern was that the risk of being in a fatal car crash for sober male drivers between ages 16 and 20 doubled between 1996 and 2007.
While the exact reasons aren't clear, "we speculate that it may have a lot to do with distraction," said study researcher Eduardo Romano, also of the Pacific institute. "Sober kids are more at risk, and we think it may be related to texting and the other new technologies they are using so much."
The findings highlight the need for drunken-driving prevention education in school for both boys and girls, and for efforts to curb distracted driving.
The findings are based on information from a government reporting system on fatal traffic accidents nationwide. The researchers compared blood-alcohol information from nearly 6,900 fatal crashes in 2006 with information from about 6,800 U.S. drivers who were part of the 2007 U.S. National Roadside Survey.
The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Pass it on: For underage girls who drink, the risk of being in a fatal car accident is now on par with the risk of underage boys who drink.