Which States Are The Most Dangerous For Holiday Drunk Driving?

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Car with busted headline (caption: Drinking & Driving Stats)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?

Article Overview

Holiday Drunk Driving Statistics

One person dies every 48 minutes in the U.S. as a result of drunk driving crashes.1 But rates significantly increase during the holidays.

Nationally, drunk driving fatalities accounted for 34% of all traffic fatalites during the 2017 holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And nearly 70% of holiday drunk driving deaths are caused by drivers with a high BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.15 or more.2 In December 2017 alone, 885 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes — a jump from 781 people in December 2016.3

And while many people indulge during the holidays, there’s a high-risk group that we should all be concerned about when hitting the roads. In a national survey, 51% of DUI (driving under the influence) offenders said they drink more during the holidays compared to the rest of the year.3

Drunk Driving Fatality Statistics By State

Alcohol-impaired driving crashes account for approximately 1/3 of all crash fatalities in the United States. In 2017 alone, nearly 10,874 people died from drunk driving in the U.S.1 

Safest and Most Dangerous states for drunk driving by state

10 Most Dangerous States For Drunk Driving Fatalities

The following states rank as the most dangerous for alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities. They rank in descending order from the most dangerous being number one. See our methodology.

 % of Fatalities from DUI*Rate of DUI Fatalities Per 100K PopulationTotal Traffic Fatalities
#1 District of Columbia51%2.331
#2 Connecticut43%3.4278
#3 Rhode Island41%3.283
#4 North Dakota40%6.1115
#5 Texas39%5.23,722
#6 Hawaii39%3.0107
#7 Wyoming36%7.6123
#8 Maryland
#9 Massachussetts34%1.8350
#10 South Carolina32%6.3988

*Percentage of DUI fatalities of total traffic fatalities per year. DUI is widely defined by law enforcement as having a BAC of 0.08% or more.

10 Safest States For Drunk Driving Fatalities

The following states rank as the safest for alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities. They rank in descending order from the safest being number one. See our methodology.

 % of Fatalities from DUI*Rate of DUI Fatalities Per 100K PopulationTotal Traffic Fatalities
#1 Utah19%1.7273
#2 New Jersey20%1.4624
#3 Mississippi21%5.0690
#4 Kansas22%3.5461
#5 Kentucky23%4.1782
#6 Minnesotta24%1.5357
#7 Indiana24%3.3914
#8 Georgia
#9 Idaho24%3.5244
#10 Tennessee24%3.71,040

*Percentage of DUI fatalities of total traffic fatalities per year. DUI is widely defined by law enforcement as having a BAC of 0.08% or more.

Methodology For Rankings

We based our rankings on the percentage of DUI fatalities in each state from total traffic fatalities. With states that tied in this primary category, we then determined the rankings based on the DUI fatalities per 100K population. We also included the total number of traffic fatalities in each state in this table, but they weren’t a factor in our rankings.

The data we analyzed comes from the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2017 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Report1 and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.2

Note: The national average in 2017 was 3.4 fatalities per 100,000 people.

Top States For DUI Arrests

These are the top 10 states with the most DUI arrests in 2016.4,5 

 DUI Arrests Per 1 Million PeopleDUI Arrests As A % Of Population
#1 South Dakota8,403.680.84%
#2 North Dakota7,587.550.76%
#3 Wyoming5,263.870.53%
#4 Maine4,402.620.44%
#5 Wisconsin4,331.420.43%
#6 Colorado4,256.080.43%
#7 Montana4,253.160.43%
#8 Alaska4,170.410.42%
#9 Hawaii4,166.440.42%
#10 Kentucky3,824.000.38%

The national average is 3,025 DUI’s per 1 million people.

Drunk Driving: Facts You Have To See To Believe

Sadly, here are some other not-so-fun national facts and figures.

  • Driver Age: The highest percentage of drivers with BACs of 0.08+ involved in fatal crashes was for 21 to 24-year-old drivers (27%), followed by 25 to 34-year-old drivers (26%). The 10-year trend of alcohol-impaired drivers involved increased for older drivers when compared to younger drivers.1
  • Under 21: Drunk driving fatalities declined by 31%, and among those under 21-years-old the number of deaths has decreased 65% in the last several decades.2
  • Driver Gender: In 2017 there were 4 male alcohol-impaired drivers involved for every female alcohol-impaired driver involved (8,022 versus 1,944).1
  • Night vs Day: 70% occurred in the dark compared to 26% in daylight (with 4% during dusk and dawn).1
  • Most Dangerous Months: More occurred in July (9.6%), August (9.0%) and September (9.0%) than other months.1
  • Road Type: 87% occurred on non-interstate roads compared to 13% on interstate roads.1
  • Rural vs Urban: 55% occurred in urban areas and 45% in rural areas.1
  • Total Fatalities: The total number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities were highest in Texas (1,468), followed by California (1,120) and Florida (839), and lowest in the District of Columbia (16).1
  • In 2017 among the 10,874 alcohol impaired-driving fatalities, 68% (7,368) were in crashes in which at least one driver had a BAC of 0.15 or higher.1
  • 1,001,329 people were arrested for drunk driving in 2018.6
  • Each day, more than 300,000 people drive drunk, but only about 3,200 are arrested.7
  • An average drunk driver has driven drunk over 80 times before their first arrest.7
  • About 1/3 of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.7
  • 4.2 million adults reported at least one alcohol-impaired driving episode in the past month in a 2012 CDC survey.8

Tips For Safe Driving During The Holidays

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.

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.

What tips do you have to prevent drunk driving incidences?

Sources: [1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2017 Report, [2] Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, [3] Scram Systems, [4] FBI 2016 Crime Report, [5] Car Insurance Comparison, [6] FBI 2018 Crime Report, [7] MADD, [8] Centers for Disease Control

About The Author:

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance.

Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

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