Which states have the worst drunk driving records (excerpt)

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

Which states have the worst drunk driving records (excerpt)

Background Checks.org

November 27, 2019

Although drunk driving fatalities in the United States have been reduced by nearly 50% since the early 1980s, thanks to harsher penalties for DUI’s and the work of awareness groups like MADD, alcohol-impaired driving remains a serious problem on America’s roadways.

In 2018, 29% of total motor vehicle fatalities were a result of alcohol impairment, wherein an operator of a vehicle involved in the crash had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. The good news is that this is the lowest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities since the NHTSA began reporting alcohol data in 1982. However, the rate is much higher in some states compared to others.

To give you a full picture of the current drunk driving situation in the U.S., we used the latest FBI arrest figuresNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics on fatal motor vehicle crashes, and U.S. Census data to rank all 50 states based on the severity of their DUI problem.

We calculated our DUI severity score using each state’s DUI arrest rate per 100,000 population and the DUI fatality rate per 100,000 population.

Drunk Driving Statistics: Analysis 

  • The north-central region comprising Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas is by farthe worst area for drunk driving in the United States, with the four states taking the top 4 positions in our ranking. Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the top three DUI arrest rates, while Montana and Wyoming have the two highest DUI death rates.
  • The south is the deadliest region for drunk driving: 7 of the 12 states with the highest DUI death rates belong to the region (South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina).
  • States in the northeast and midwest have the least severe problem with drunk driving: of the 15 states with the lowest DUI severity scores, 11 (if you count Maryland as a northeastern state) belong to one of the two regions.
  • Massachusetts is the state with the drunk driving problem of overall least concern, boasting both the 3rd lowest DUI arrest rate and the 3rd lowest DUI death rate.
  • Montana has the highest shareof alcohol-related traffic deaths, at 43%. Followed by Texas at 40%.
  • West Virginia and Kentucky have the lowest shareof alcohol-related traffic deaths, with 19%. Yet, Kentucky’s DUI arrest rate of 423.13 per 100K is significantly higher than West Virginia’s.
  • 17 states witnessed a net increasein DUI fatalities, while 33 witnessed net decreases.
  • The state with the greatest percentage increase in DUI fatalitieswas New Hampshire, posting a considerable 77.80% increase in DUI fatalities over the previous year.
  • Rhode Island saw the most significant decrease in DUI fatalities, with a 41.2% drop.

States with States with the Worst DUI Problems

Rank State DUI Arrests DUI Arrest Rate (per 100K) DUI Fatalities Rate of Total Traffic Deaths DUI Fatalities Increase/Decrease over Prior Year DUI Death Rate (per 100K) DUI Severity Score
1 Wyoming 3,432 676.10 34 30% -26.10% 5.89 12.65
2 South Dakota 5,891 721.93 45 35% 25% 5.10 12.32
3 Montana 3,794 381.24 79 43% 38.60% 7.44 11.25
4 North Dakota 5,136 678.35 29 27% -38.30% 3.82 10.60
5 Mississippi 5,370 462.21 163 25% 6.50% 5.46 10.08
6 New Mexico 6,464 459.67 108 28% -4.40% 5.15 9.75
7 North Carolina 27,915 518.82 421 29% 5% 4.05 9.24
8 South Carolina 15,188 344.48 291 28% -4.60% 5.72 9.17
9 Alaska 3,148 429.03 29 36% 31.80% 3.93 8.22
10 Wisconsin 24,368 425.26 199 34% 5.30% 3.42 7.68

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Overall, when looking at the decrease in drunk driving fatalities and arrests in the United States over time, the situation is promising. As we mentioned in the intro, 2018 witnessed the lowest percentage of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities since data began to be compiled on the subject, and 2018 saw a 3.6% drop over the prior year. Promisingly, two of the worst states for drunk driving, North Dakota and Wyoming, had two of the most significant decreases in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities (ND = -38.30%, Wyoming = 26.10%).

We still have a long way to go: thousands lose their lives each year in alcohol-related fatalities, which in turn profoundly affects the lives of families across the country, but when it comes to drinking and driving in the U.S., the outlook is a positive one.


In order to rank the states by the severity of their DUI problem, the DUI severity score was calculated using DUI arrest rates per 100K and DUI fatalities per 100K. Rates per 100K were calculated using the latest 2018 FBI Arrest statistics for DUI arrests, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for DUI fatalities. Due to the fact that the FBI arrest data was incomplete and not covering a state’s entire population in some cases, the population figure posted by the FBI was used to calculate the DUI arrest rate per 100 for all 50 states. To calculate the DUI fatality rate per 100K, the latest census population data was used. Note: 2018 Iowa arrest data was not available so data from the 2017 FBI report was used in its place.