Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Drinking a few beers each week may be considered a social norm, but it’s important not to get too carried away.

After all, drunk driving is a growing concern for the vast majority of the United States and for good reason! The possible consequences are grave for all people involved — the guilty party and the victims.

Don’t let your drinking habits turn you into a bad statistic like these:

  • In 2014, 9,967 people died because of alcohol-impaired driving crashes — making up about 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics.

A car crash caused by a drunk driver can deprive you of a loved one and drain your finances. In fact, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study from 2014 shows that U.S. motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost almost $1 trillion in loss of life and loss of productivity!

If you’re concerned about how unsafe the roads in your state are because of drunk drivers and how much they cost you as a taxpayer, keep reading to learn about the most dangerous states for drunk driving.

Before the possible event of a car accident, make sure you have the best auto insurance coverage, and review your plan every six months. Compare at least three to four auto insurance quotes today!

Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Drunk Driving

Our article will focus on the top 10 most dangerous states for drunk driving. If you would like to access the rankings for all 50 states — plus the District of Columbia — simply click here to view the rest of the data.

#10 – Texas

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 41st
Worst Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank: 3rd

In “The Lone Star State,” a person is hurt or killed every 20 minutes because of drunk driving.

In 2014, Texas had a total of 1,670 DUI-related fatalities:

  • 1,446 for BAC level of .08+
  • 224 for BAC level of .01 to .07

Texas got 4th place for Laws/Statutes. A third of the available DUI laws were not enforced there.

#9 – Wyoming

Best Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank: 36th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 3rd

In Wyoming, the activity of drinking and mining is illegal and obviously dangerous. But for some reason, people there don’t seem to feel the same about drinking and driving.

3,742 of this state’s residents were arrested for a DUI in 2014, which may seem minuscule compared to Colorado’s 27,874.

But Wyoming’s total population is only 584,304, while Colorado’s is 5,355,588. To put it in perspective: Roughly 29 percent of Wyoming’s population was arrested for DUIs.

#8 – Colorado

Best Ranking Factor: Cost per Fatality: 43rd
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 4th

Colorado’s Cost per Fatality for its residents is a $140.41 taxpayer subsidy.

On the downside, for every one minor arrested for a DUI in this state, 109 adults were also arrested.

Oh, and fun fact: Colorado is the rodeo capital of the world. But too bad Coloradans haven’t learned to lasso their tendencies toward drunk driving. Hopefully, next year, drivers will learn more self-control.

#7 – Vermont

Best Ranking Factor: Cost per Fatality: 27th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 9th

Vermont may be the land of maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but it’s certainly not sweet that this state made our list!

Penalties set Vermont apart . . . but not in a good way.

There’s no mandatory minimum sentencing for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses (so, all of the listed offenses). In Vermont, a judge could sentence a defendant to “0 days” or a fine of “$0.” This situation rarely happens, but a clear, mandatory minimum sentencing would be much better than nothing.

#6 – Nebraska

Best Ranking Factor: Cost per Fatality: 30th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 7th

Nebraskans may be some of the friendliest people in the U.S., but you may not want to face them on the road after they’ve had one too many drinks.

One thing in Nebraska’s favor, however, was Cost per Fatality as their Best Ranking Factor. Drunk driving fatalities only cost each resident an average $156.14 taxpayer subsidy.

But for every one minor arrested for a DUI in this state, 68 adults were also arrested.

#5 – New Mexico

Best Ranking Factor: Laws/Statutes: 23rd
Worst Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank: 11th

New Mexico is one of the youngest states in the U.S., has more cows than people, and is top-of-the-line wine country. By the late 19th century, New Mexico produced over a million gallons of wine a year.

Despite the “Land of Enchantment’s” finer taste in alcohol compared to its compadres on our list, this state is one of the most dangerous states for drunk driving in 2014. There was only a 12-space gap between New Mexico’s best and worst factors, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Plus, in 22nd place, DUI Arrests was close to being the Best Ranking Factor.

#4 – South Dakota

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 29th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 1st

Considering that South Dakota is home to more than a dozen breweries and the craft brew scene continues to grow all over the state, it’s a no-brainer that it made our Top 10 list.

853,304 was South Dakota’s total population in 2014. 5,990 of those people were arrested for DUIs.

Laws/Statutes wasn’t too far from reaching the Worst Ranking Factor (3rd place), and since South Dakota scored low for this and for DUI arrests, perhaps these categories increased the strength of DUI Penalties.

We wouldn’t call this a win.

#3 – Wisconsin

Best Ranking Factor: Cost per Fatality, Laws/Statutes: 29th
Worst Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank, DUI Penalties: 7th

Other than being informally dubbed, “The Dairy State,” did you know that Wisconsin is also known for their breweries?

While almost all of the larger brewing companies that once called this state home have left, there are still over 40 craft breweries and of course, MillerCoors Brewing Company. So it’s no surprise that Wisconsin made this list, right?

It’s great, however, that Wisconsinites only pay an average of $154.53 for Cost per Fatality. 

As you can see, there’s a tie within the Best and Worst Ranking Factors. This state can’t make up its mind. And at 9th place, DUI Arrests was only two spots away from being another Worst Ranking Factor. Cutting it close, Wisconsin!

#2 – Montana

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 17th
Worst Ranking Factor: Laws/Statutes, Cost per Fatality: 1st

Although Montana averages fewer than seven humans per square mile, this massive state somehow got the #2 spot on the list. In fact, deer, antelope, and elk outnumber humans there.

Cost per Fatality also shared the 1st spot for Worst Ranking Factor. This state cost each of their residents an average estimate of $439.77 for their taxpayer subsidy. That’s $285.24 more than in Wisconsin!

Fatality Rank and DUI Arrests were also high in the worst ranking factors — both at 5th place.

#1 – North Dakota

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 24th
Worst Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank: 1st

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the beloved 26th President of the U.S., may have had great things to say about North Dakota. Unfortunately, North Dakota #1 on our Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Drunk Driving list.

Cost per Fatality and DUI Arrests tied for 2nd worst factor for North Dakota.

Interestingly, Montana and North Dakota swapped places in the category of Cost per Fatality: Montana took 1st place, and North Dakota was 2nd. Due to drunk driving fatalities, taxpayers in this state paid an average of $409.44 each.

At 7th place, Laws/Statutes wasn’t too far behind for Worst Ranking Factors. But that Fatality Rank is rough!

North Dakota, please be more careful with alcohol and motor vehicles. You better be further down our list next time!

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Highlights and Trends

Vermont wasn’t the only state without a mandatory minimum sentencing in effect for all three DUI offenses; South Dakota and Missouri also don’t have one.

The DUI Arrests category is a recurring theme. It occupied four out of 10 states’ Worst Ranking Factors and was a close second for New Mexico.

Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming had the worst DUI Arrests.

The majority of the states on this Top 10 list are neighbors in some way and are all west of the Mississippi River:

  • North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana share borders;
  • Nebraska shares state lines with Wyoming, South Dakota, Missouri, and Colorado;
  • New Mexico also shares a state line with Colorado;
  • And New Mexico and Texas share a state line.

One study for beer consumption makes a connection stating: “Generally, rural, Western states tend to have larger beer consumption per capita than other parts of the country.”

Wisconsin and Vermont are the only isolated states, but they found themselves #5 and #6 for beer consumption. This list for top beer consumption is like a class reunion of our most dangerous states for drunk driving list.

Drive Sober

When braving it out on the road, practice safe driving tips, such as the following:

  • Always wear a seat belt.
  • Don’t drive after midnight, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • When out with friends who are drinking, be the designated driver.
  • Drive sober, of course, and encourage friends and family to do the same.

Methodology

We based our drunk driving rankings on the following categories:

  • Cost per Fatality by State – Drunk Driving Fatalities per 1,000,000 Population and Taxpayer Subsidy per Drunk Driving Fatality by State
  • Drunk Driving – Percentage of Fatal Crashes that Involved Alcohol
  • DUI Arrests – Arrests of Minors and Adults that were Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) related per 1,000,000 Population
  • DUI Penalties – State Penalties for 1st-time DUI Offenders and Repeat DUI Offenders ranked against the Nation’s Average Penalties
  • Laws/Statutes – Percentage of Drunk Driving Fatalities by State per State’s amount of Drunk Driving Laws and Statutes

All of these components are weighted and tallied for a final score. Find out more details about our categories here.

For example, Michigan was the state with the worst rating for DUI penalties in 2014 and received only eight points for this category. Oregon, however, got the best rating and earned a score of 148.

The lower the score, the worse the state’s drunk driver ranking.

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We compiled all of our information using the following sources:

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Complete Rankings: Worst on Combating Drunk Driving

– Click here for the full stats and sources for each category.

For all media inquiries, please email: Joshua Barnes
Our study implemented weighted measures to demonstrate the impact each manifestation of a category can have on a person, community, and state. Each weight represents the severity of the category. Definitions for each category can be found here.

These weighted scores are necessary to deduce the most dangerous state. The final rankings, which determines the worst state, are not perfectly correlated with the final scores of the non-weighted rankings, which determines the worst state per category.

STATEFATALITY RANKCOST PER FATALITY DUI ARRESTSDUI PENALTIESLAWS & STATUTESTOTAL SCORERANK
Alabama14748343512437
Alaska94723501413441
Arizona323514125011131
Arkansas252838164512739
California323015334312134
Colorado1743421319922
Connecticut2538441910628
Delaware254849361614946
District of Columbia47105122139621
Florida381944424915448
Georgia474140312513743
Hawaii32214554711833
Idaho46216322526
Illinois124650494519051
Indiana443737473615749
Iowa45252546510123
Kansas432324313211030
Kentucky492411433729
Louisiana61147372812335
Maine20178354310325
Maryland244228201110123
Massachusetts43746381013140
Michigan3837261309419
Minnesota374910474114744
Mississippi3143026218115
Missouri3561913387612
Montana515171241
Nebraska2230717207410
Nevada83631241210325
New Hampshire291220443310929
New Jersey164536264114845
New Mexico11172219238115
New York174043153613441
North Carolina412012216505
North Dakota122247352
Ohio27502774012437
Oklahoma509209397713
Oregon203242512515047
Pennsylvania42321667617
Rhode Island2934321127914
South Carolina93413968918
South Dakota15131293463
Tennessee38151828278817
Texas315354149520
Utah515129305116150
Vermont232716915678
Virginia19253340710527
Washington134412432412335
Weighted Factor3510252010
West Virginia28734224811131
Wisconsin72997297410
Wyoming361431418494
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