"If you're over the limit, you're under arrest. This is a matter of life and death," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Despite the new trend, drunken driving arrests remain dominated by men. In 1998, 676,911 men were arrested for being under the influence, compared with 626,371 arrests in 2007. More than 126,000 women were arrested for DUI in 1998, a number which increased to 162,493 in 2007.
Laura Dean-Mooney, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said it was unclear why there has been an increase in the number of women arrested for impaired driving. "There's no hard data on that. What you're hearing more is that women are under more pressure, they're now perhaps the breadwinner because of the unemployment rate," she said.
"We need to make sure women understand that if you're a drinking driver, you're just as likely as a male to hit or kill or injure someone or perhaps even kill yourself, as we saw in the horrible Taconic Parkway crash," she said.
In New York's Westchester County, Diane Schuler drove the wrong way for nearly two miles on the Taconic State Parkway last month before her minivan slammed into an SUV, killing 8 people.
Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter, three young nieces and three men in the SUV were killed. Schuler's 5-year-old son survived.
A smashed bottle of vodka was found in the wreckage of Schuler's minivan. An autopsy found she had a 0.19 blood-alcohol reading at the time of the crash, well above the legal limit of 0.08, and had smoked marijuana no more than an hour before the wreck.
Transportation officials said the number of impaired women involved in a fatal crash increased in 10 states from 2007 to 2008. The states are: Ohio, New Hampshire, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, West Virginia, Indiana, Washington state, Kansas and Tennessee.
About 2,000 alcohol-related deaths involve women every year.
The government released the new statistics in connection with its anti-drunk driving enforcement campaign, which targets drivers leading up to the Labor Day holiday weekend. The enforcement campaign runs from Aug. 21 through the Labor Day weekend and involves 11,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies around the country.
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