Most Dangerous States for Drunk Driving – 2016

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee...

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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...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 5, 2020

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View rankings table here and interactive map here and more interactive charts here


Have you ever found yourself on the road late at night, just wondering how many drunk drivers might be out on the road with you? Drunk driving is an expensive problem. But it’s not just about the money. We’ll never be able to calculate the cost of precious lives and the toll taken on those affected by the tragic loss of loved ones.

We’ve compiled stats from a number of sources to reveal where you’re most likely to run into a drunk driver, and we also found out how much you as a taxpayer are having to pay out of pocket because of drunk driving accidents in your home state.

States are always working to discourage drinking and driving with all kinds of enforcement policies, fees, penalties, and restrictions, but the responsibility will always be on the individual to choose not to endanger his or her own life, as well as the lives of others.

We have included 2 categories related to DUI Penalties and Types of Drunk Driving Laws to show you how the states compare when it comes to enforcement. Drunk driving is never worth the risk, and we can only hope that one day we will no longer have to worry about anyone driving under the influence! Perhaps self-driving cars will put an end to this issue once and for all.


The rankings for this study are based on statistics made available to the public by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)National Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationFederal Bureau of Investigation, KIDS COUNT Data Center, and

Each state is ranked according to 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)

We translated all of this information into one Total Score, and the worst states received the lowest scores.

For example, the states with the worst rating for our DUI Arrests (total DUI arrests per population), North Dakota and South Dakota, each earned just 1 point in this category, and the state with the lowest arrests, District of Columbia, received a score of 51.

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

For a complete breakdown, along with the specific sources used for each scoring criteria, click here, or you can view the rankings table and click here for more interactive graphics.

For all media inquiries, please email: Tyler Spraul

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Top 10 Worst States for Drunk Driving

#10 - Vermont

Best Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank: 26th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 9th


Even though the Green Mountain State is known for their scenic byways and highways, it turns out you might want to rethink driving them! Vermont ranks high for their DUI penalties but slides under the radar with their fatality rank.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep them off our top 10 worst drunk driving states.

#9 - Rhode Island

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 38th
Worst Ranking Factor: Types of Laws/Statutes: 2nd


If you’re looking to flee the “big city” you might want to think twice about having Rhode Island be your weekend destination. Yes, their DUI arrests are few and far between, but unfortunately, they score high in our other categories.

For being such a small state, they came in pretty big for alcohol-related vehicle fatalities (#8 to be exact).To top that, the type of laws set in place to deter drunk drivers is quite lenient when compared to other states.

#8 - New Mexico

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Arrests: 30th
Worst Ranking Factor:Cost Per Fatality Rank: 5th


New Mexico’s official nickname—The Land of Enchantment—probably has nothing to do with their driving. New Mexico might have an insignificant rank when it comes to DUI arrests, but they boost themselves to #8 overall with their Cost per Fatality numbers.

Cost per Fatality is the average expense subsidized by each taxpayer. Evidently, paying for other people’s drunk driving gets expensive in New Mexico.

#7 - Pennsylvania

Best Ranking Factor: Cost Per Fatality Rank: 31st
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 6th


The birthplace of Hershey chocolate has nothing sweet about their drunk driving ranking. Even though that have a lower Cost per Fatality rank, they make it up in the other categories.

Not only did they make the top 10 for DUI penalties, but they also ranked at #7 for their Laws and Statutes against alcohol-related driving.

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#6 - South Dakota

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


The famous faces on Mount Rushmore have everyone in this state thinking they need their own headshot. We’re not kidding either! South Dakota comes in at #1 for DUI arrests.

However, this isn’t the only factor contributing to their overall ranking. South Dakota was in the top 10 for the categories of Cost per Fatality and Laws and Statutes combating driving under the influence.

Unless South Dakota buckles down on drunk driving, they may be in the top 10 for years to come.

#5 - South Carolina

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 39th
Worst Ranking Factor: Fatality Rank:  3rd


The people of South Carolina seem to be chugging more than just sweet tea.

Sadly, South Carolina is #3 for alcohol-related driving fatalities. Even though their DUI penalties will take a considerable chunk out of your finances, they have few laws combating drivers under the influence.

#4 - Wisconsin

Best Ranking Factor: Types of Laws/Statutes: 29th
Worst Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 7th


You may not be surprised that Wisconsin made it on the list. Historically, Milwaukee has been the Beer Capital of the World, so it is no surprise that they have quite a few checkpoints in place to prevent drunk driving.

But according to our study, their DUI penalties are not as steep as other states.

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#3 - Idaho

Best Ranking Factor: Cost Per Fatality Rank: 25th
Worst Ranking Factor:DUI Penalties: 3rd


Normally, coming in third place is something to celebrate. However, when you’re one of the worst drunk driving states there is nothing to be proud of.

Idaho might have a low cost per fatality, but they rank pretty high elsewhere. They come in third for lenient DUI penalties and fifth for the most DUI arrests.

#2 - Montana

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 17th
Worst Ranking Factor: TIED – Cost Per Fatality Rank (1st) AND Types of Laws/Statutes (1st)


The Big Sky Country has a big problem – ranking #1 in two categories of our drunk driving feature. They have the worst Cost per Fatality and Laws and Statutes for alcohol-related driving. Besides coming in first place twice, they also position high on our other categories such as Fatality Rank.

Their best ranking was their DUI penalties, but coming in at #17 isn’t anything to boast about.

#1 - North Dakota

Best Ranking Factor: DUI Penalties: 24th
Worst Ranking Factor: TIED – Fatality Rank (1st) AND DUI Arrests (1st)


North Dakota is known for being the Heaven state. We’re not sure where they got that nickname from because our study shows they are far from perfect.

Similar to Montana, they came in first in two categories: Fatality Rank and DUI arrests. They even made #2 for Cost per Fatality. Looks like the police of North Dakota have their hands full!

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Fatality Rank


Drunk driving may result in a fatality, which is the worst possible outcome. There could be one fatality or multiple fatalities; no destination is worth risking someone else’s life! Our Fatality Rank score was based on driving fatalities with a blood alcohol content of .01 or higher.

The ranking is based on a summation of two separate rankings:

  1. The state’s drunk driving-related fatalities for Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) .01-.07 divided by the total amount of driving-related fatalities
  2. The state’s drunk driving-related fatalities for Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) .08+ divided by the total amount of driving-related fatalities.

These two subcategories help differentiate between the legal BAC amount and the illegal BAC amount (.08 Per Se Law) to highlight the sad fact that fatalities still occur with a legal BAC score.

Cost per Fatality by State


There are three serious outcomes from drunk driving:

  1. Fatalities
  2. Bodily and property damage
  3. The associated cost for the taxpayers.

According to 2011 data from MADD, “Drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion a year.”

This annual amount for drunk-driving is absurd – the projected total annual amount would be enough to purchase 3.77 million Tesla Model 3 vehicles!

Drunk driving is still being highly subsidized by every American – by taxes, higher insurance rates and victims having to deal with the emotional toll of injury or losing a loved one.

– MADD’s state legislative affairs manager, Frank Harris

Let us fight to reduce the burden on the victims and their families, as well as the state taxpayers – please do not drink and drive!

DUI Arrests


This category was based on the total DUI arrests for both minors (under 18 years of age) and adults ( 18 years old and older) and then divided by the estimated population of each state.

Delving deeper, we break down the rankings based on the state with the most DUI arrests for a minor, DUI arrests of an adult, DUI arrests as a percentage of the state’s total arrests, and total DUI arrests as a percentage of the state’s population.

DUI Penalties


The DUI penalties were based on jail time, licenses suspensions, and maximum fines for the first, second, and third drunk driving offense.

Repeat offenders should know better than to operate a vehicle while impaired; therefore, most states levy harsher minimum sentences for second and third offenses. If a state has no mandatory minimum sentence for an offense, the average for all the states that do have a minimum was added to states without a minimum.

States offenses with a “no mandatory minimum sentence” are highlighted in yellow in our data table for the reader’s viewing pleasure.

Laws and Statutes


Each state was ranked based on the amount of types of laws and statutes in place to fight drunk driving. While this data may not provide a direct causation relationship, proving what reduces drunk driving, it is interesting to review what states enforce which laws and statutes.

Laws regarding Vehicular Homicide and the .08 Per Se Law are enforced nationwide. There is a small correlation between the amount of types of laws and statues, and the amount of Drunk Driving related fatalities.

Final Rankings

To better assess the truly most dangerous state, our team analyzed the collective data from our sources and compiled our study.

Each category, while pressing and indicative of how impacting drunk driving can be on a personal and state level, is not equivalent. Therefore, our team decided the best way to present the “Most Dangerous State” would be to funnel the rankings through weighted measures.

Each weight is representative of the severity of the category.

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As you can see from the graph below, there is a strong correlation between the Final State Rankings (non-weighted) and the Weighted Final State Rankings.


Click here for interactive chart (click image to enlarge)

In our study, we opted to highlight the weighted rankings over the non-weighted based on the level of significance for each category – a fatality having the most impact. The weighted rankings are displayed in the table below, and the non-weighted rankings are displayed in the expandable banner below.

Here are some trends we pulled from our study:


No “Quick Fixes” to the Drunk Driving Problem


Our study demonstrated there is no “silver bullet” to resolving drunk driving issues. DUI Penalities, DUI arrests, and the types of laws and statutes in place many not directly affect the outcome on fatalities and the cost to the taxpayers.

However, we applaud the states that are seeking to indirectly discourage impaired drivers from getting on the road. While the data shows categorical inconsistency, like South Carolina ranking well DUI penalties but #3 for DUI fatalities, there are certain states demonstrating that being tough on drunk driving does pay off!

Florida had one of the study’s most aggressive DUI penalties, and it showed when their fatality rank came in at #41 and their DUI arrests were #44.

States with Popular Destinations are not affected by Vacationers


We were surprised to find that states with a high influx of visitors were not in our top rankings. Popular spring break and vacation destinations such as Florida, California, Hawaii, and New York did not make our Top Worst Drunk-Driving States.

In reality, it was quite the contrary. With our top spots going to Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota, we can only blame the local’s alcohol consumption at this point.

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Complete Rankings: Worst on Combating Drunk Driving

– To view and sort the table by category, click on header columns.

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

For all media inquiries, please email: Tyler Spraul

Our study implemented weighted measures to demonstrate the impact each manifestation of a category can have on a person, community, and state. Each weight is representative of the severity of the category.

District of Columbia1.2012.754.401.3035.0544
New Hampshire0.807.758.803.3026.9529
New Jersey4.208.755.204.1031.0040
New Mexico0.507.503.802.3017.608
New York3.8010.753.003.6026.4026
North Carolina2.004.000.401.6023.4021
North Dakota0.200.254.800.706.301
Rhode Island3.409.502.200.2018.109
South Carolina1.004.507.800.6014.955
South Dakota0.600.255.800.3016.756
West Virginia1.606.254.404.8026.8528
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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.

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