Study: Which states are the most dangerous for holiday drunk driving?

By Safe Smart Living®

Despite the increased use of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft and marketing efforts by alcohol brands to ensure you have a designated driver, fatal car crashes caused by drunk driving still occur at high rates.

This is especially true during times when people are celebrating and indulging to excess.

But which states have the highest rates, and how can you lower your chance of getting injured?

Drunk Driving & 4th Of July Stats

One person in the U.S. dies every 50 minutes as a result of drunk driving,1 and fatality rates increase 12% during the holidays. In fact, 40% of all highway deaths between 2007 and 2011 were caused by drunk driving over the Fourth of July weekend. 2

What’s more, Independence Day ranks highest among any other day of the year in average daily car and motorcycle crash deaths, with 592 and 129 respectively between 2010-20143.

As Americans hit the roads to parades and parties for our nation’s birthday, it’s important to raise awareness about driving under the influence and remind people that you can avoid deadly car crashes this Independence Day.  

States For Drinking & Driving Infographic

Alcohol-impaired driving crashes account for approximately one-third of all crash fatalities in the United States. In 2016 alone, nearly 10,500 people died from drunk driving in the U.S.4

Safest (And Most Dangerous) States For Drunk Driving Fatalities

Below is a breakdown of the percentage of traffic fatalities that were alcohol-related when the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was .08% or more, the number of Drinking Under the Influence (DUI) fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and the total number of overall DUI Deaths. We then gave them a ranking of safety wherethe higher the “overall score” number, the safer the state for DUI-related fatalities.

Utah was found to be the safest state with the fewest DUI fatalities, with an overall score of 49 (19% of total traffic deaths from DUIs). In contrast, Montana scores the most dangerous, with 45% of total traffic deaths in the state coming at the hands of drunk driving.

Note: Total fatalities per state was not included in the Overall Score because it would disproportionately skew the data higher for states with large populations or lower it for states with low populations.

Methodology For Drunk Driving Fatality Rankings

The Overall Score was calculated based on a weighted average. Each state’s percentage of alcohol-related driving fatalities was weighted at 50% and its overall ranking in fatalities per capita composed the other 50%.

The data includes info for all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and comes from the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2016 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Report 4, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the U.S. Census Bureau.5

Note: the national average is 3.3 fatalities per 100 thousand people.

Top States For Drinking & Driving

You might want to think twice before having one more glass of wine at your holiday dinner and then heading home. More than 845,000 people were arrested for DUI offenses in 20164. In looking at states that are the most prone to drinking and driving, these are the top 10 states with the most DUI arrests per capita.6,7

DUI Arrests Per 1 Million People DUI Arrests As A % Of Population
#1 South Dakota 8,403.68 .84%
#2 North Dakota 7,587.55 .76%
#3 Wyoming 5,263.87 .53%
#4 Maine 4,402.62 .44%
#5 Wisconsin 4,331.42 .43%
#6 Colorado 4,256.08 .43%
#7 Montana 4,253.16 .43%
#8 Alaska 4,170.41 .42%
#9 Hawaii 4,166.44 .42%
#10 Kentucky 3,824.00 .38%

To see how your state stacks up to the national average, the national average is 3,025 DUI’s per one million people.

Drunk Driving: Facts You Have To See To Believe

Sadly, here are some other not-so-fun facts and figure as it relates to drinking and driving.

  • Driver Age: The highest percentage of drivers with BACs of .08+ was for 25- to 34-year-old drivers (27%), followed by 21- to 24-year-old drivers (26%). The 10-year trend of alcohol-impaired drivers involved increased for older drivers when compared to younger drivers.
  • Under 21: Drunk driving fatalities declined by 31%, and among those under 21 the number of deaths has decreased 65% in the last several decades.5
  • Driver Gender: In 2016 there were 4 male alcohol-impaired drivers involved for every female alcohol-impaired driver involved (7,850 versus 1,883).
  • Night vs Day: 70% occurred in the dark compared to 26% in daylight (with 4% during dusk and dawn)
  • Most Dangerous Months: More occurred in July (9.5%), May (9.1%), and October (9.1%)
  • Road Type: 86% occurred on non-interstate roads compared to 14% on interstate roads
  • Rural vs Urban: 50% occurred in both urban and rural areas
  • Total Fatalities: The total number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities were highest in Texas (1,438), California (1,059) and Florida (841), and lowest in the District of Columbia (10), Rhode Island (19) and Vermont (27).
  • 846,665 people were arrested for drunk driving in 20166
  • Three times as many males were arrested for drunk driving as females in 2015 (508,633 vs 167,327).1
  • 4.2 million adults reported at least one alcohol-impaired driving episode in the past month in a 2012 CDC survey8
  • 50% to 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license1
  • About a quarter of car crashes with teens involve an underage drinking driver1

Stats are from the NHTSA 2016 report4 unless otherwise noted.

Drinking And Driving During The Holidays Tips

Nationally, 40% of traffic-related deaths during Christmas and New Year’s involve drunk drivers — a 12% increase over the annual average.9

The good news is that drunk driving fatalities have been trending down over the last 20 years, thanks to awareness and stricter laws. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have made it illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 g/dL or higher.

Still, the roads can be dangerous, particularly during holiday evenings and nights. Check out the brief video below for some driving tips to stay safe on New Year’s Eve and other risky times.

Stay safe this holiday season and while it’s okay to have fun drinking and being merry, it’s never okay to drink and drive. If you do plan to have one too many drinks, make sure you have a designated driver. The last thing you want is to spend your holidays behind bars.

With the advent of self-driving cars, hopefully one day these statistics will be a thing of the past. And if you’re wondering how your state ranks for fatal car accidents, we’ve got those statistics for you as well.

Sources: [1] MADD, [2] NHTSA, [3] Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, [4] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2016 Report, [5]Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility,[6] FBI, [7] Car Insurance Comparison, [8] Centers for Disease Control, [9] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism