Lead researcher Robert B. Voas of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Md., said in 1996 at any given blood-alcohol level, young men had a higher risk of a fatal crash than young women did. However, by 2007, that gender gap had closed, Voas said.
The exact reasons are not clear but it's possible young women are taking greater risks on the road, he said.
The total number of young men involved in fatal alcohol-related wrecks is still greater because men drink more. However, at a given blood-alcohol level, Voas said, young women now appear to have the same risk of a fatal crash as their male peers do.
The findings are based on information from a government nationwide reporting system on fatal traffic collisions. The study 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, scheduled be to published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found the overall risk of being killed, or at least involved, in a fatal crash rose as drivers' blood alcohol levels climbed -- whatever their age.
Voas and colleagues said what was remarkable was that by 2007, underage men and women had similar risks at each given blood-alcohol level -- in contrast to findings from a decade earlier, when underage men were at about a two-fold greater risk than young women with the same blood-alcohol level.