Special Report

States With the Most Drunk Driving

Drunk driving deaths fell by 23% between 2002 and 2012. But for much of the United States, drunk driving is still a problem. According to a report by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a research organization funded by the nation’s largest distillers, there were more than 10,000 deaths caused by drunk driving in 2012.

In some states, the problem of alcohol impaired driving is far worse. In 10 states there were at least 5 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2012. In North Dakota 10.3 people died in drunk driving accidents for every 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country. Based on the number of drunk driving deaths per 100,000 people, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the worst drunk driving problems.

Many of the 10 states with the most drunk driving fatalities also had a relatively high number of underage residents who were involved in drunk driving accidents. Seven of these states were among the top 10 in total underage deaths related to drunk driving.

Click here to see the states with the most drunk driving

Most drunk driving fatalities involved perpetrators who had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of at least twice the legal limit, which is 0.08% in most states. In 2012, 61% of offenders in fatal drunk driving accidents had been drinking heavily, with BACs of 0.15% or more. In Oklahoma and North Dakota, 78.6% and 78.3% of drunk driving perpetrators that resulted in fatalities had BACs of at least 0.15%.

Perhaps not surprising, each of the 10 states with the most drunk driving fatalities also had higher per capita consumption of beer, than the U.S. overall, according to figures from industry trade group the Beer Institute. North Dakota ranked first with a per capita beer consumption rate of 45.8 gallons, while Montana, South Dakota and Texas also ranked in the top 10.

In some of the states with the highest fatalities, there were a relatively small number of drunk driving arrests relative to the number of deaths. In Alabama, for example, only 286 arrests were made for drunk driving in 2012 despite its high number of drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 people. Yet in other states, such as North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, there were a relatively high number of arrests, especially considering the small populations of these states.

One reason for the relatively few arrests could be that many of the states have among the most miles of public roads, thereby making drunk drivers that much harder to police. Texas has 313,210 miles of public roads — the most of any state — including nearly 100,000 miles of roads in sparsely populated rural areas. Oklahoma and Alabama also ranked high with 111,821 miles and 101,811 miles of public roads, respectively.

Also contributing to the distances drunk drivers cover, many of these states are sparsely populated. Seven of the 10 states with the most drunk driving deaths had a lower population density than the U.S. as a whole, according to figures from the 2010 U.S. Census. These include North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, which were among the most sparsely populated states in the country. This would suggest that the distance

24/7 Wall St. used data compiled by the Foundation for the Advancement of Alcohol Responsibility, which, in turn, derived much of its data from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s (NHTSA) National Center for Statistics and Analysis . The NHTSA gathered data from state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as through both landline and cell phone interviews. The Beer Institute provided per capita consumption of malt liquor, referred to herein as beer, for drinking age adults in each state. UnitedHealth provided binge drinking percentages gathered from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Binge drinking is defined by the UnitedHealth Foundation as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages on a single occasion. 24/7 Wall St. also used state population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2012.

These are the 10 states with the most drunk drivers.

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