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Downing a few drinks may sound like an appealing way to kick back and relax, but drunk driving can have fatal repercussions. In 2013, 28.7 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol; that’s more than the population of Texas!
Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash. Every day in the United States, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
Not only can drunk driving injure you and others, but it can also hurt your bank account and those of your fellow hard-working Americans. Drunk driving costs each American adult over $500 a year and the entire U.S. $132 billion a year.
If you’ve ever wondered about the chances of encountering drunk drivers in your state and how much they cost you as a taxpayer, keep reading to learn about the most dangerous states for drunk driving.
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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
We weighted the categories below and tallied for a total score. Find out more details about our categories here. The worst states received the lowest score.
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For example, South Dakota was the state with the worst rating for DUI arrests (total DUI arrests per population) in 2015 and received only seven points for this category. The District of Columbia, however, had the lowest amount of DUI arrests and earned a score of 255.
We compiled all of our information using the following sources:
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
- United States Census Bureau
- Kids Count Data Center
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Drunk Driving
Our article will focus on the top 10 most dangerous states for drunk driving. However, you can access the rankings for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. Simply click here to view the rest of the data.
Although Utah didn’t make this year’s top ten list, it’s worthwhile to note that they are in the process of trying to lower their blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05. That would be the lowest limit in America. That change will be worth watching for next year’s study.
Highlights and Trends
North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming are neighbors and share the top three of the top four spots for DUI Arrests. It’s worth noting here that these three neighboring states all ranked on last year’s top 10 list. They also shared three out of the top six for DUI Arrests.
The most recent study points out cultural factors may be in play as well geography — rural western states tend to drink more beer. We can conclude that the higher rate of consumption is leading to more arrests based on this year-to-year trend.
Next, small states with a large population generally have a higher fatality rank.
Rhode Island and Hawaii both share the number one spot for Fatality Rank. Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state in land area, and Hawaii is the eighth smallest state. With a population of 1,431,603 as of 2015, Hawaii is the 13th most populated state, and Rhode Island has a population of 1,056,298.
There are 26 states — over half of the U.S. — with no mandatory minimum sentencing for a DUI’s first offense. No mandatory minimum sentencing means that a judge could sentence a defendant to “0 days” or a fine of “$0.” Although this might be rare, the possibility of lower penalties might not discourage drunk driving like we would like.
Eight out of the top 10 most dangerous states for drunk driving held first through third places in their worst factors, except for Maine and Missouri, which both got fifth place in their category.
Don’t Drink and Drive
You can make an impact by choosing not to drink and drive. And if you live in one of these most dangerous states, be vigilant and encourage your friends and family to practice safe driving and — better yet — self-control with alcohol consumption.
Here are some tips if you’re drinking with friends or family:
- Plan ahead by collecting car keys when guest arrive
- Drink responsibly / pace yourself when drinking
- Cut off drinks an hour before your gathering ends
- Always offer non-alcoholic drinks
- Always have food along with drinks
- Arrange for alternate transportation (i.e., taxi, Uber, Lyft, designated driver, etc)
- See the NHTSA’s SafeRide app
- Offer to let people stay with you if necessary
State Farm gives these tips if you’re on the road. Watch for drivers who are:
- “Making wide turns
- Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the center line
- Almost striking an object or vehicle
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Driving at a very slow speed
- Stopping without cause
- Braking erratically
- Responding slowly to traffic signals
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Driving after dark with headlights off”
Call 9-1-1 if you see these signs while driving or if you have a friend who you know is driving under the influence and cannot be immediately stopped.
Complete Rankings: Worst on Combating Drunk Driving
– To view and sort the table by category, click on header columns.
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.
|STATE||COST PER FATALITY||DUI ARRESTS||DUI PENALTIES||LAWS & STATUTES||TOTAL SCORE||RANK|
|District of Columbia||1.30||12.75||4.40||1.90||32.25||42|