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Where Are You Most Likely to Be in a Fatal DUI?

Where Are You Most Likely to Be in a Fatal DUI?

In the most recent year for which data is available—about 11 in 100,000 people died in a motor vehicle traffic accident across the U.S. Driving becomes even more dangerous when you take alcohol into account, as 29% of those fatalities involved at least one driver under the influence. In fact, on average, there was one alcohol-related traffic fatality every 50 minutes.
DUI Deaths by State
DUI Deaths by State Source: Getty Images

Top 10 states where you're most likely to be in a fatal DUI

1. Montana

7.58 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. Its DUI fatality rate of 7.58 deaths per 100,000 residents is more than twice the national average of 3.26. Over the past five years, 303 people have been killed in traffic accidents involving a drunken driver in the state of Montana.

According to the most recent survey from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2.4% of drivers in Montana reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days, compared to the national average of 1.7%.

2. South Carolina

5.87 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Despite having less than half the population of its northern neighbor, South Carolina had a 42% higher DUI fatality rate in 2018 than North Carolina. Convicted 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.

3. Wyoming

5.84 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Wyoming had the third-highest DUI fatality rate in the nation, with 5.84 deaths per 100,000 residents. Along with its neighbor Idaho, Wyoming is among the 12 states where sobriety checkpoints are not conducted. Sobriety checkpoints allow police officers to check for alcohol-impaired drivers. These are usually set up when drunken driving is more likely to occur, such as on holidays, and are used as a drunken-driver deterrent.

4. Mississippi

5.45 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Mississippi had the fourth-highest DUI fatality rate in the U.S., at 5.45 deaths per 100,000 residents. Interestingly, the state borders Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, which also ranked among the top 10 in our study. But among its neighbors, Mississippi saw the greatest increase of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities year over year.

5. South Dakota

5.21 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

South Dakota's DUI fatality rate increased 25% from 2017, to 5.21 deaths per 100,000 residents. This stands in contrast to its neighbor, North Dakota, which experienced a 38% decline in alcohol-related vehicle fatalities over the same period.

Underage impaired driving is a safety priority for South Dakota. A recent survey found 20% of high school students rode in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking during the past 30 days.

6. New Mexico

5.16 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

New Mexico had the sixth-highest DUI fatality rate according to our study, with 5.16 deaths per 100,000 residents, or 108 in total. But according to the New Mexico Department of Health, between 1997 and 2010, the state was ranked first in the U.S. for its alcohol-related death rate. The Department of Health also found that, in New Mexico, 1 in 6 deaths among working adults is attributable to alcohol, which is much worse than the national figure of 1 in 10.

7. Texas

5.16 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Texas saw the largest number of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in 2018 — there were 1,439 across the state, or 370 more than the next state, California.

Texas businesses with a wine and beer retailer's permit are allowed to sell daiquiris or margaritas that are made with wine or beer for takeout. They 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.

8. Alabama

5.06 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Alabama has improved year over year, dropping from fifth to eighth in our ranking with 41 fewer DUI fatalities. However, the state's rate of 5.06 alcohol-related vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents is still 55% greater than the United States average. According to a 10-year analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women in Alabama had a 93% higher rate of death involving a drunken driver than the national average. Men in Alabama were only 62% more likely to die in a drunken-driving crash.

9. Louisiana

4.63 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Louisiana had 216 DUI deaths in 2018 and a fatality rate of 4.63 deaths per 100,000 residents, or 42% more than the national average.

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 areas, such as the French Quarter, as long as they're drinking out of a plastic container. Minors can imbibe when accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 21.

10. Arkansas

4.48 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

There were 134 alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in Arkansas in 2018, leading to a rate of 4.48 deaths per 100,000 residents. Interestingly, Arkansas is the only state in which drivers charged with a DWI are required to have a trial, even if a prosecutor doesn't have probable cause. Last year, a bill to change this law was proposed, though it died in committee after receiving criticism from MADD, the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police and the Arkansas Impaired Driving Prevention Task Force.

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 northern and southeastern parts of the country.

Fatal DUI 2020

Where has the DUI fatality rate changed the most?

Montana was the only state to keep its top-five ranking between 2017 and 2018. In fact, it saw the largest year-over-year increase nationwide. New Hampshire and Minnesota similarly had double-digit increases in their alcohol-related vehicle fatalities from the previous year, growing by 78% and 25%, respectively.

States with the largest increase in fatal DUI rate

Increase in alcohol-related vehicle fatalities
Increase in fatalities per 100K people
New Hampshire211.56
South Dakota91.04

Wyoming and North Dakota had the highest DUI fatality rates in 2017 — 7.91 and 6.25 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively — yet experienced the most significant declines in 2018. In 2014, North Dakota had had the highest percentage of residents who reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days — 3.4% — according to a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

States with the greatest decrease in fatal DUI rate

Change in alcohol-related vehicle fatalities
Change in fatalities per 100K people
North Dakota-18-2.39
Rhode Island-14-1.32

Maryland saw 60 fewer alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in 2018 than the prior year, second only to California, which had the largest absolute decrease in fatalities (78 fewer than in 2017).

The consequences of drinking and driving

People who are convicted of driving under the influence face severe legal and financial consequences. Here is 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. 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: People who are convicted of a DUI offense may 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 myriad other problems, including fines, jail time and a longer license suspension.

Fines: People with a DUI conviction typically must pay fines that can cost thousands of dollars, which varies by state. For example, convicted 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: First-time DUI offenders can expect to be charged with a misdemeanor, while repeat offenders may face felony charges. Jail time is a real possibility for people convicted of driving under the influence, although 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

Alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities in 2018
Fatalities per 100K people
Change in fatalities from 2017
Change in fatalities per 100K people from 2017
District of Columbia5191.31-6-0.88
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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.