Drivers in every state face the risk of being involved in a fatal car accident every time they hit the road. In the most recent year for which data is available—about 12 in 100,000 people died in a motor vehicle traffic accident. Driving becomes even more dangerous when you take alcohol into account, as 28% of those fatalities involved at least one driver under the influence. In fact, in a recent year, there was one alcohol-related traffic fatality every 50 minutes. Below, we outline the states where people are most likely to be involved in a fatal DUI (driving under the influence) crash.
The Top 10 States Where You're Most Likely to be In a Fatal DUI
8.09 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Residents of Montana run a higher risk of being involved in a fatal DUI wreck than those in any other state. Over the past several years, 846 people have been killed in traffic accidents involving at least one drunken driver in the state of Montana. According to a survey conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 3.4% of drivers in Montana reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days, compared to the national average of 1.9%.
2. North Dakota
6.62 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
In North Dakota, 45% of all car wreck fatalities involved at least one driver who was over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. Furthermore, almost one in five arrests that are made in the state are as a result of driving under the influence. The average BAC among drunken drivers who are tested in this state is 0.17, which is more than double the legal limit of 0.08.
3. South Carolina
6.59 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Despite having less than half the population of its northern neighbor, South Carolina had just 23 fewer fatalities in 2016 as a result of drunken driving than North Carolina. First-time DUI offenders in South Carolina typically have their licenses suspended for six months, unless they successfully contest the suspension in an administrative hearing.
5.72 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Alabama lawmakers are attempting to remedy the high number of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities through stricter legislation. A recently passed law requires previous DUI offenders to use ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. An ignition interlock bill was passed in 2014, but the device wasn't required for convicted drunken drivers who entered into a pretrial diversion.
5. New Mexico
5.65 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, since 1981, the state has ranked among the top three in the U.S. for number of deaths attributed to alcohol. In New Mexico, one in six deaths among working adults is attributable to alcohol, which is much worse than the national figure of one in ten.
5.52 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Wyoming is one of the 13 states where sobriety checkpoints are not conducted. Sobriety checkpoints are designed for police officers to check for alcohol-impaired drivers. The checkpoints are usually set up when drunken driving is more likely to occur, such as on holidays, and are used as a drunken driver deterrent.
7. South Dakota
5.29 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that excessive alcohol consumption costs the state of South Dakota about $598 million per year. The costs were from losses due to a drop in workplace productivity, a rise in health care expenses, increased law enforcement expenses and losses stemming from motor vehicles involved in alcohol-related crashes.
5.08 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Businesses in Texas that have a wine and beer retailer's permit are allowed to sell daiquiris or margaritas that are made with wine or beer for take-out. Businesses can't mix tequila or any other distilled spirit with the beverages, but customers can take these drinks into their vehicles if the container is sealed. However, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission doesn't provide guidelines as to what constitutes a sealed container.
4.80 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
Louisiana was the last state in the country to have a legal drinking age of 18 and is well-known for its relaxed alcohol laws, specifically in New Orleans. People in New Orleans are legally allowed to drink alcohol in public in certain city areas, such as the French Quarter, as long as they're drinking out of a plastic container.
4.58 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents
A recently passed law will change where alcohol can be sold in the state. Currently, strong alcohol (3.2% or more by weight) can't be purchased in grocery stores or convenience stores in Oklahoma. However, the new law that goes into effect on Oct. 1 will allow stores to sell stronger alcohol and permits liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer, which was previously illegal.
In Which State Are You Most Likely to Die Due to A Drunken Driver?
Based on our study, some of the states with the highest number of deaths due to a DUI accident are concentrated in the north and mid-western part of the country. To the right is a gradient map outlining the states with the highest percentage of people involved in fatal DUI crashes, where a darker shade represents a higher percentage of deaths.
The Consequences of Drinking and Driving
People who are caught driving under the influence face severe legal and financial consequences. Below, we provide a list of some of the ramifications of drinking and driving.
Higher auto insurance rates: A large component of the cost of auto insurance is based on your personal driving record. As a result, a DUI conviction will generally increase the price you pay for auto insurance. Furthermore, having a DUI on your driving record indicates you're a high-risk driver, meaning you'll have to file an SR-22 in most states.
Suspended license: Most people who are caught drinking and driving will have their licenses suspended for 30 to 90 days for a first-time offense, although the exact time period will vary by state. Driving with a suspended license can lead to a myriad of other problems, including fines, jail time and a longer license suspension.
Fines: Those who are caught drinking and driving will have to pay fines that can cost thousands of dollars, which varies by state. For example, drunken drivers in Texas can be fined up to $2,000 and can be charged an annual fee of $1,000 to $2,000 for three years in order to retain their driver's licenses. Repeat offenders can expect fines to increase with each subsequent instance of driving while intoxicated.
Jail time: Most first-time DUI offenders can expect to be charged with a misdemeanor; however, repeat offenders may face felony charges. Jail time is a real possibility for people convicted of driving under the influence, but the exact punishment will vary by state and by case.
National Rankings of States Where You're Most Likely to Be Involved in a Fatal DUI Crash
|State||Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Fatalities in 2016||Fatalities Per 100,000 People||Rank|
We examined the total number of motor vehicle fatalities stemming from alcohol-impaired driving as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These figures were compared to the population of each state according to the latest U.S. census estimates.