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Underage female drinkers are now as likely to die in an alcohol-related car crash as their male counterparts, a new study suggests. In 1996, underage males had a higher risk of a fatal car crash than underage females. By 2007, the gender gap had closed, according to HealthDay.

The total number of young men who are involved in deadly alcohol-related crashes is still greater, because males drink more, the study notes. At any given blood alcohol level, however, young women have the same risk of a fatal car crash as males.

While the reasons for the increase are not clear, young female drinkers may be taking greater risks while driving, said lead researcher Robert B. Voas, PhD, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland. “Young women who drink and drive may be behaving more like young men who drink and drive,” he said in a news release.

The study found drivers ages 16 to 20 with a blood alcohol level of .02 percent to .049 percent were almost three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash, compared with sober drivers of the same age. Their risk of dying in a single-vehicle crash was almost four times as high as that of sober drivers.

Sober male drivers in the study were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash in 2007 compared with 1996. While the reason is not clear, the researchers speculate that distracted driving, including texting, may be the cause.

They reported their findings in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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