States With the Most Drunk Driving

April 25, 2014 by Vince Calio

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.

10. Texas
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 5.0
> Total DUI arrests: 85,436 (2nd highest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 34.4 gallons (9th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 22.4% (14th lowest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 18.9% (19th highest)

Nearly 1,300 people in Texas died in drunk driving accidents in 2012, more than in any other state. While underage drinking is not as prevalent in the state as in many others, Texas’ sheer size means serious drinking-related incidents are quite common. In 2012 , 3,610 young adults under 21 were arrested for violating the state’s underage drinking laws, among the most in America. In 2012, 169 people under the age of 21 died in drunk driving accidents in Texas, more than in any other state. Overall, Texas law enforcement officers arrested 85,436 people for drunk driving that year, more than in any other state except for California.

9. West Virginia
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 5.1
> Total DUI arrests: 5,654 (10th lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 30.3 gallons (20th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 26.9% (15th highest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 10.1% (2nd lowest)

A higher percentage of residents in West Virginia under the legal drinking age engaged in binge drinking than in all but three other states. The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming four to five alcoholic beverages on one occasion. While the number of underage fatalities due to drunk driving in the state has dropped by 64.2% between 2002 and 2012, the state was still among the worst for fatalities per 100,000 people in 2012. That year, there were nearly 2 deaths per 100,000 people caused by underage drinking and driving. Additionally, the state’s drunk driving laws do not seem to deter offenders from repeating the crime. Last year, 77% drunk driving accidents were caused by drivers with a 0.15% BAC or higher.

ALSO READ: Cities Where Americans Don’t Feel Safe

8. South Dakota
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 5.3 (tied, 7th highest)
> Total DUI arrests: 5816 (12th lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 38.9 gallons (4th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 26.3% (17th highest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 22.1% (6th highest)

South Dakota had the fourth-highest gallons per capita consumption of beer in 2012, after North Dakota, New Hampshire and Montana. Drunk driving also had a large impact on the state’s younger residents. There were 4.5 underage deaths caused by drunk driving per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the nation. More than 26% of people between 12- and 20-years old consumed alcohol, and more than 19% of minors engaged in binge drinking within the preceding 30 days, both among the highest in the country. Despite numerous anti-drunk driving and public intoxication laws, 22.1% of the state population engaged in binge drinking within the prior 30 days, one of the highest percentages in the U.S.

7. Alabama
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 5.3 (tied, 7th highest)
> Total DUI arrests: 286 (the lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 30.2 gallons (22nd highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 20.4% (5th lowest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 13.7% (4th lowest)

Underage Alabamians were actually less likely than underage Americans elsewhere to consume alcohol or binge drink. Still, the state had among the highest number of fatalities involving under 21-year olds in drunk driving accidents. The number of underage residents killed in drunk driving accidents in 2012 was 36, or 2.7 per 100,000 people. Both were among the highest in the U.S. After passing tougher underage drinking laws in 2011, Alabama had the fewest arrests for driving under the influence in 2012, at just 286. Between 2002 and 2012, underage fatalities from drunk driving accidents fell by more than 30%. In 2011, Governor Robert Bentley enacted an interlock ignition law, which places a breathalyzer on the dashboard of repeat offenders’ cars. The device will not allow the driver to start the car if it senses alcohol.

6. Oklahoma
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 5.4
> Total DUI arrests: 13,801 (23rd highest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 28.3 gallons (20th lowest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 22.3% (13th lowest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 16.5% (12th lowest)

Oklahoma’s drunk driving problem has seen little improvement over the decade ending in 2012. While Oklahoma manages to curb underage drinking relatively well, the number of drunk driving fatalities among drinking-age adults decreased by just 5.3% over the 10 years ending in 2012, a far lower decline than in most other states. Current anti-drunk driving laws do not seem to be effective at deterring drunk drivers in the state, as nearly 79% of all drunk driving fatalities involved a driver with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.15% — well above the legal limit of 0.08%.This is despite the fact that the state has an “aggravated DUI” law that imposes harsher penalties on drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.15% or more.

5. Mississippi
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 6.0
> Total DUI arrests: 10,221 (22nd lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 33.9 gallons (11th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 22.0% (10th lowest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers total: 14.2% (6th lowest)

Drunk driving in Mississippi is a problem for people above and below the legal drinking age. In 2012, 23 people under the drinking age — 2.6 per 100,000 residents — died in a drunk driving accident, the most per capita nationwide. Overall, state law enforcement arrested or cited more than 4,800 people in 2012 for violating public intoxication laws, one of the highest totals in the U.S. Mississippians also consumed nearly 34 gallons of beer per capita in 2012, among the most in the country. Still, like many states, Mississippi has made progress in fighting drunk driving. Between 2002 and 2012, the total number of deaths due to drunk driving accidents fell by 38%, more than the majority of states.

4. Wyoming
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 6.9
> Total DUI arrests: 4,147 (7th lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 33.0 gallons (15th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 27.2% (13th highest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 18.9% (19th highest)

Nearly 19% of Wyoming residents said that they engaged in binge drinking over the previous 30 days, while more than 27% of people under the age of 21 said they consumed alcohol in the previous month. Both were among the higher rates in the country in 2012. There were also more than 2,500 arrests made in 2012 for violating public intoxication laws. This was among the higher numbers in the country despite the fact that Wyoming is the nation’s least populous state. Some of that might be explained by the fact that Wyoming’s population has a relatively high rate of college students, and college students tend to drink more heavily and frequently than average adults. In 2012, more than 13,000 students, the equivalent of 2.3% of Wyoming’s total population, attended the University of Wyoming.

ALSO READ: America’s Most Content (and Miserable) Cities

3. South Carolina
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 7.6
> Total DUI arrests: 17,906 (20th highest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 32.7 gallons (16th highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 22.2% (12th lowest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 15.4% (8th lowest)

Nearly 360 people in South Carolina were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2012, many of them minors. In fact, there were 2.8 underage deaths per 100,000 people caused by drunk driving accidents in 2012, sixth highest in the U.S. In general, state residents enjoy drinking. South Carolinians consumed 32.7 gallons of beer per capita in 2012, among the most in the U.S. The state’s law enforcement arrested more than 17,900 people for drunk driving in 2012, one of the higher totals in the U.S.

2. Montana
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 9.0
> Total DUI arrests: 4,418 (9th lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 41.0 gallons (3rd highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 29.7% (7th highest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 19.2% (17th highest)

Montana was among the states with the highest youth consumption of alcohol and the highest rates of binge drinking among underage residents. Sadly, for every 100,000 people in the state, 3.8 underage residents were killed in drunk driving accidents, second highest in the country. Montana residents, on average, drank 41 gallons of beer per capita, more than all but two other states — North Dakota and New Hampshire. Nearly 20% of minors said they engaged in binge drinking over the prior 30 days, sixth highest in the country. In total, 19.2% of state residents said they engaged in binge drinking over the previous month, among the highest percentages in the country.

1. North Dakota
> Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 10.3
> Total DUI arrests: 5,730 (11th lowest)
> Beer consumption per capita: 45.8 gallons (the highest)
> Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 32.8% (3rd highest)
> Pct. of binge drinkers: 23.8% (2nd highest)

North Dakota had more deaths from drunk driving accidents per 100,000 residents than any other state in the U.S. in 2012. The number of drunk driving deaths in the state actually rose by 64.2% over the past 10 years ending in 2012, by far the largest increase of any state in the country. The state had the highest number of minors who said they engaged in binge drinking over the previous 30 days. Also, only Wisconsin had a higher percentage of people, in total, who said they engaged in binge drinking over the prior month than North Dakota, which had a total of 23.8%. More than 78% of drunk driving fatalities involved offenders whose blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit in the state. The state aimed to curb the drunk driving problem last year when it passed a bill that doubled the amount of jail time for repeat drunk drivers.