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

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

Pennsylvania has seen a decrease in DUI fatalities across the state in recent years; 2016 to 2017 alone showed a 17% decline. Still, some areas are more prone to these types of deadly accidents — it was Susquehanna County that proved to be most deadly with 7.69 DUI fatalities per 100,000 residents. Counties comprising the largest cities in the state, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are among the safest.
Truck crash with police tape
Truck crash with police tape Source: Getty Images

The worst large counties in Pennsylvania for fatal DUIs

1. Monroe County

4.51 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Monroe County is the deadliest large county in Pennsylvania for DUIs. From 2015 to 2017, 23 deaths were a result of crashes with drivers whose blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. Bordering New Jersey on its eastern side, Monroe County is seen as one of the fastest growing counties in the state. The average DUI fatality rate was 21% higher in the past three years as compared to the previous period.

2. Butler County

2.72 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Butler County’s DUIs have more than doubled since 2015; however, Butler was 40% less deadly than the aforementioned Monroe County. Located 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, Butler County had 15 total DUI fatalities from 2015 to 2017.

3. Dauphin County

2.61 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

In Dauphin County, drunk driving caused 21 fatalities from 2015 to 2017, which was a 50% increase from the previous three-year period. Dauphin encompasses Pennsylvania’s fourth most populous city and state capitol, Harrisburg.

4. Centre County

2.60 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

While there was a decline in DUI-related fatalities from 2016 to 2017, Centre County still averaged 2.60 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. Including college and graduate students, Centre County's State College is the third most populous city in Pennsylvania, only after Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Yet residents of Allegheny County are 72% less likely and Philadelphia County residents are 60% less likely to be in a fatal DUI accident than Centre residents.

5. Luzerne County

2.60 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Wilkes Barre and Hazleton are the two largest cities in Luzerne County, located in the northeast part of the state. Luzerne had a 39% higher DUI-death-per-capita rate than neighboring Lackawanna County and town of Scranton. Luzerne also had the most significant decrease of the top large counties — a 35.9% decline in average DUI fatalities over the past three years.

6. Berks County

2.51 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Situated between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Berks County had 31 total fatalities caused by drunk driving between 2015 and 2017. Berks’ largest city of Reading is one of the most expensive cities in Pennsylvania for auto insurance.

7. Westmoreland County

2.46 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

In Westmoreland County, there were 27 fatalities as a result of drunk driving in the most recent three-year period. Positioned southeast of Pittsburgh, this county has seen DUI fatalities drop by more than half from 2015 to 2017.

8. Northampton County

2.46 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

Northampton County sits along the Pennsylvania and New Jersey border. The town of Bethlehem is split between Northampton and Lehigh counties; Northampton residents are 43.5% more likely to be involved in a fatal DUI crash than Lehigh county residents.

9. York County

2.15 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

York County saw a 20% decrease in DUI fatalities since 2012, despite being the most populous large county in our list of the top 10 in Pennsylvania for DUI fatalities.

10. Washington County

2.09 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents

DUI fatalities have seen a 66% decline from 2015 to 2017 in Washington County. Situated on the western Pennsylvania and Ohio border, the largest cities here are Washington and Monongahela.

Breakdown of the most dangerous counties in Pennsylvania for DUIs, by county size

Listed above are the 10 worst large counties in Pennsylvania for DUI fatalities; however, our analysis sampled data for all 67 counties across the state. For comparison purposes, we separated each county into categories based on population: large, midsize and small.

A Graphic of the Most Dangerous Cities in Pennsylvania for DUI Fatalities Grouped by Size

Despite its small population, Susquehanna County exceeds all other counties in DUI fatalities per capita, with 7.69 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents.

Small counties more likely to have higher DUI deaths per capita, compared to midsize and large counties. The average DUI deaths per 100,000 residents in small counties was 3.04, compared to the midsize county average of 2.58 and the large county average of 1.90.

The largest cities in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are not in the most deadly counties. However, several of Pittsburgh’s surrounding counties of Armstrong, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland all ranked within the top 10 in their respective size categories.

Large Pennsylvania counties with the biggest increases in fatal DUIs

Centre County had the most drastic growth rate in DUI fatalities of any large Pennsylvania county, rising 71.4% when comparing the last three years to the previous three.

Dauphin and Northampton counties showed the largest physical increases in fatalities, each with seven more DUI-related deaths than the prior period.

The chart below illustrates the most significant increases in DUI fatalities across Pennsylvania:

2012‒2014 DUI fatality rate
2015‒2017 DUI fatality rate
% Change

The most improved large counties in Pennsylvania for fatal DUIs

There were zero reported DUI fatalities in Beaver County in 2017, which was a significant decrease from the six deaths reported in 2012.

Other counties that showed improvement were Philadelphia County and its northern neighbor Montgomery County. In 2016, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office conducted a DUI sweep yielding at least 15 arrests of individuals from the most wanted DUI offenders list.

The following five counties showed the most drastic improvement in DUI fatalities across the state:

2012‒2014 DUI fatality rate
2015‒2017 DUI fatality rate
% Change

The consequences of drinking and driving in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania DUI laws are tiered based on severity of offense, with penalties focusing on treatment and punishment. Number of prior offenses also plays a role — if a driver had a previous DUI on record, the punishment increases.

The number of DUIs a driver has on record greatly influences auto insurance rates, and insurers will require higher premiums because these drivers pose a greater risk.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, some persons, such as "minors, commercial drivers, school vehicle and/or bus drivers, and offenders involved in an accident that injures someone or causes property damage may be subject to the high BAC penalties even if their BAC is not in the high category."

Penalties against general impairment (BAC 0.08% - 0.099%):

No prior DUI offenses
  • Ungraded misdemeanor, up to 6 months probation
  • $300 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment when ordered
1 prior DUI offense
  • Ungraded misdemeanor, up to 12 month license suspension
  • 5 days to 6 months jail time
  • $300 to $2,500 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
2+ prior DUI offenses
  • 2nd degree misdemeanor, up to 12 month license suspension
  • 10 days to 2 years prison
  • $500 to $5,000 fine
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock

Complete list of Pennsylvania counties with DUI fatality rankings


DUI Fatalities per 100,000 Residents
% Change from 2012-2014 to 2015-2017
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We analyzed the total number of fatalities caused by DUI-related crashes, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, over the three most recent years that data is available. We then compared DUI fatalities to U.S. Census data for Pennsylvania counties.

For reference, large counties have populations of over 150,000 residents, medium counties have populations of 50,000 to 149,999 residents and small counties have populations of 25,000 to 49,999 residents. ValuePenguin removed seven Pennsylvania counties with 24,999 or fewer residents from analysis due to small sample size: Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Juniata, Montour, Potter, Sullivan.