An Analysis of Drunk Driving Fatalities by State

An Analysis of Drunk Driving Fatalities by State

Despite state and federal laws implemented to eradicate drunk driving in the United States, too many individuals still engage in this risky behavior – some with fatal consequences. The worst thing about driving while intoxicated is that you’re not only a danger to yourself — you put everyone else on the road at risk too. There are more than 10,000 deaths related to drunk drivers every year. A tragic statistic.

But when it comes to these drunk driving incidents, which states’ residents are guiltiest? Some might be what you’d expect. California, for instance, is one of the worst states when it comes to drunk driving fatalities. This makes sense when you consider the huge population, minimal public transportation options, and the notorious “car culture” of the major cities. The other states with considerable alcohol-related driving fatalities?

Texas, Florida, and North Carolina top the list.

That’s not a list you want to rank highly on.



Looking beyond the basic numbers however, we can see the highest rates of drunk driving per capita. This yields vastly different results.


So which states had the fewest drunk driving fatalities? Alaska, Vermont, and Rhode Island are the states with the fewest drunk driving casualties. But the states with the lowest rate of alcohol related driving fatalities per capita were the following:


This likely won’t come as a surprise considering states like New York have millions of people but far fewer drivers than most cities. Utah, with its high Mormon population and relatively strict laws meant to discourage drinking, has the lowest rate of drunk driving deaths per capita in the entire country.

And it’s not just adults who are responsible for these deadly accidents. Despite drinking laws that make it illegal for minors to purchase and consume alcohol, a startling number of fatal crashes are at the hands of under-21-year-olds. The following graphic illustrates the states with the most and least under-21 alcohol-related driving fatalities.


You can see that Texas, California, and Florida have the greatest number of fatal crashes by drunk drivers under 21, whereas South Dakota has, by far, the fewest.

Clearly, population plays a role here. Recent census data suggests that there are only about 850,000 people (or 10 people per square mile) in South Dakota, which means it’s much less likely a drunk teenager is going to hurt someone when he or she gets behind the wheel. By comparison, in California, there are 239 people per square mile on average throughout the state. Despite this factor, state population isn’t the only factor at play when it comes to drunk driving fatalities.

A more telling stat is the percent change in drunk driving fatalities in the past decade. Since 2003, some parts of the US have seen a drop in drunk driving deaths, while others have seen a significant increase. Those states with the most improved safety record are:


These three states had the greatest overall decrease in drunk driving casualties from 2003 to 2013.

Which states fared worst over time?

North Dakota

See the map below:



There are numerous factors that determine which states suffer most from alcohol-related driving fatalities. Infrastructure, population change, weather, and legislation all contribute to or prevent these accidents from occurring. We should be able to look at those states with the decreasing rates of drunk driving fatalities to learn what’s effective at decreasing the rate of drivers who choose to operate vehicles while under the influence.


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