Which State is the Worst for Drunk Driving? The Results are In.


You know how it is with drivers in your state. They’re the worst. They pass on the right. They never met a speed limit they didn’t exceed.  They could remove their turn signals and sell them on eBay as “unused items.” They’re reckless, totally clueless, and by far worse than drivers from other states. And your state has got to be the worst for drunk driving – no arguing there.

It would be compelling if we didn’t hear the same complaint from everyone in every state. Which raises a question:  which state has the worst drivers, and more important to us, the most drunk drivers?

The website carinsurancecomparison.com has the answer. Each year they publish ratings for the worst drivers by state (we’ll save you a click – Montana ranks number 1). The ratings are classified into different areas, of which one is drunk driving.

North Dakota tops the list for the percentage of fatal crashes that involved alcohol, followed all too closely by Massachusetts, South Carolina, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Texas.

The best states were Utah (okay, no surprise there), Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota. Minnesota was the overall winner for, let’s call it, Least Worst Driving.

The Need for Better DUI Laws

What do we make of this?

If we take the state with the worst record – North Dakota – we find a few interesting pieces of data. Perhaps not surprisingly, North Dakota is the state with the largest per capita beer consumption.

More telling is North Dakota’s stance on drunk driving.

Ignition interlocks, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are not mandatory for any DUI offense in North Dakota.  By comparison, half of US states currently require an ignition interlock for all drunk driving offenses.  North Dakotans can also plea bargain a DUI to a charge called wet reckless, a measure which many states now prohibit. Finally, a person refusing a chemical test is suspended without possibility of an ignition interlock, thereby increasing the likelihood that the offender will drive while suspended, and very possibly drive drunk if the tendency is there.

Of course, laws are not the only factor in a state’s DUI record. Utah’s impressive record stems directly from its high proportion of non-drinking LDS members.  And Minnesota’s excellent standing derives partly from the hazardous road conditions that winter brings to the state, which forces everyone to drive slowly and with extra caution.

But laws do make a difference – we can see that in the reduction of fatalities that occurs when states require all DUI offenders to use ignition interlocks.

It’s hard to change a drinking culture or alter road conditions, but laws are one thing that can be improved if people resolve to.  All the states should look at their records and see if better ignition interlock laws, consistent enforcement,  and supervision of offenders could save some of their citizens’ lives.