Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a major reason for road accidents and road deaths in the United States each year. Although the data is pointing in the right direction, we are still far from doing even remotely well. In 2019, alcohol-impaired road fatalities accounted for nearly a third of all fatal road crashes in the US, which is a staggering 10,142 deaths.
In this study of 56 countries, the US was the 9th worst in terms of road traffic deaths attributed to alcohol. The US was also a clear outlier in terms of alcohol tolerance, with only 4 countries having a legal BAC-limit of 0.08 (US, UK, Guyana, Malaysia).
But how does this look throughout the United States? Are some states better than others? We’ve taken a deep dive into the data to find out where DUI accidents, fatalities, and arrests frequently occur. We then ranked each state from best-to-worst.
How have DUI fatalities changed through the years?
Alcohol-impaired fatalities have decreased from 41% of all road fatalities in 1985 to 28% in 2019. However, there is a long way to go. An overwhelming majority of the 10,142 alcohol-related road fatalities in 2019 were solely a result of drunk driving and would not have occurred otherwise.
According to the NHTSA, a driver with a BAC of 0.08 will experience concentration difficulties, difficulty maintaining speed, impaired perception, impaired judgment, short-term memory loss, and difficulty processing information. Even a BAC of 0.05, which is within the legal limit, will result in reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, and reduced reaction times.
Drunk driving and different age groups
One could reasonably think that drunk driving would be evenly represented between different age groups. We can, however, see that young people are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident while impaired by alcohol.
This suggests that older drivers are better at identifying their limitations and recognizing the dangers of driving under the influence.
States with the highest amounts of drunk driving
North Dakota received a DUI severity score of 92.1 out of 100, making it the worst state in the nation. In 2019, 41% of the state’s road fatalities involved a drunk driver, and there were 868 DUI arrests per 100.000 drivers.
North Dakota was followed by Wyoming (79.2), Montana (75.1), South Dakota (70.5), and Texas (69.8).
States with the lowest amounts of drunk driving
Utah received a DUI severity score of 28 out of 100. In 2019, only 16% of the state’s road fatalities involved an impaired driver, which is well below the national average at 28%. The state also reported around 240 DUI arrests and 1.83 DUI fatalities per 100.000 drivers.
Utah was followed by Delaware (34.3), New York (37.3), New Jersey (37.8), and Vermont (38.7).
To find the 2019 data of arrested drivers driving under the influence of alcohol, we used the ‘persons arrested data’ from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Alcohol-impaired crash data was found through the NHTSA crash data tool.
We calculated the DUI Severity Score by first creating a normalized score out of ten on the factors “DUI arrests per 100,000 drivers”, “DUI road fatalities per 100,000 drivers”, and the “DUI road fatality ratio”, and then taking a final average score across all factors to discover the overall score for each state.