Over time, drunk driving arrests and fatalities have decreased in the United States, as indicated by a decline in DUI arrests and fatalities since the 1980s. These improvements are more impressive because DUI laws are being enforced more strictly during this period. The latest FBI arrest statistics for 2019 show a drop in DUI arrest rates in at least half of U.S. states.
This continued drop in drunk driving is often attributed to non-profit groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that have conducted successful awareness-raising campaigns for decades. MADD claims to have saved 350,000 lives through its advocacy campaign. Additionally, ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft are becoming increasingly popular, making it easier than ever to get home after a night out, although studies on their direct impact on drunk driving remain lacking.
According to FBI data, there were over 1 million DUI arrests in the United States last year despite these reasons for optimism. However, drunk driving has not yet become a thing of the past. Driving under the influence is more common in some places compared to others, as is the case with many types of crime.
The Auto channel ranked U.S. states based on the severity of their drunk driving problems, in order to give a comprehensive picture of drunk driving in America. The study ranked each state by measuring DUI severity using FBI crime and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) DUI fatality statistics, as well as U.S. Census Bureau data.
These are the States Where Drunk Driving is Most Prevalent
Wyoming is the state that topped the rankings for drunk driving in 2019. And it is once again the most faultable state when it comes to drunk driving in 2020. Due to its high rate of DUI fatalities as well as its 3rd highest DUI arrest rate, the Cowboy State earned its position this year also. The state’s reputation for rugged independence, as well as the long distances between nightlife spots and homes, may contribute to the high level of drunk driving in the state.
Despite these challenges, there are signs of hope. DUI arrests in Wyoming decreased almost 8% between 2018 and 2019, and the number of DUI fatalities has steadily decreased over the past decade. A high rate of DUI fatalities in the state is not offset by the fact that it had only 34 fatalities in 2018, placing it in the bottom six states for DUI fatalities. Its low population may partially account for the high rate.
All of the states that ranked second to sixth are (South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico). They all remained ranked the same as the previous year. This group of states also has a high DUI arrest rate and high DUI fatality rate, just like Wyoming. Despite this, each of these states saw a decrease in their DUI arrest rates from the previous year, as did Wyoming. About 33% fewer DUI arrests were recorded in New Mexico specifically.
As a result, Alaska (#7), Idaho (#8), Wisconsin (#9), and Missouri (#10) have all moved up considerably in the rankings from 2019 to 2020.
The States with the Lowest Rate of Drunk Driving
In similar fashion to the top five states, here are the least drunk driving states:
Massachusetts (#46), Delaware (#45), Utah (#44), New Jersey (#43), and Ohio (#42).
The majority of them maintained their spots from last year.
Numerous Northeastern states ranked down on the list (New York and Rhode Island aren’t far behind either) suggesting drunk driving is not as prevalent in these areas as it is in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, the DUI arrest rates in New Jersey, Delaware, and Massachusetts all increased between 2018 and 2019.
It is an oddity that Utah, the state with the 3rd least serious problem of drunk driving based on our ranking, is in the bottom ten of both DUI fatalities and DUI arrests compared to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana who top the list. In order to understand Utah’s position, three factors must be considered: Mormonism, the state’s predominant religion, bars’ consumption of alcoholic beverages, and state regulations on the sale and distribution of alcohol.
Is Drunk Driving Getting Worse Somewhere?
Quite a few of the states in the ranking rose from 2019 to 2020. But several of these improvements can be discounted due to the fact that this year’s ranking includes only 46 states.
As a result of a significant 68% increase in DUI arrest rates over the previous year, Missouri gained 22 spots from #32 to #10. Both Idaho (up 11 spots) and Louisiana (up 7 spots) saw their DUI arrest rates increase by double-digit percentages from 2019 to 2020, significantly lifting them up the rankings.
According to the report, DUI arrest rates increased by double digits in five states, while 21 states had increases of at the least modest proportions.
Have There Been Improvements on Drunk Driving in Any State?
It was reported earlier that on average, at least half of all U.S. states saw their DUI arrest rates decrease between 2018 and 2019. The arrest rate for DUI fell by double-digit percentages in seven states in 2021. The arrest rates fell by double-digit percentages in two other states, Georgia and Alabama, even though criminal data reporting from those two states only represented a small part of their populations.
The biggest improvement was seen in North Carolina, with a nearly 69% year-over-year drop in DUI arrests. This caused the Tar Heel State to move down 25 places in our ranking of states with the worst DUI records, from 7th to 32nd. There is no evidence that North Carolina’s DUI arrests were underreported to the FBI for 2019, but the state’s reduction in DUI arrests was significant enough to make one wonder if arrests were underreported.
In addition, South Carolina’s DUI arrest rates dropped 48% between 2018 and 2019 allowing it to drop from eighth to 12th overall in the rankings.