Under the Wrong Influence: States with the Most DUIs

Drunk driving is still a big problem in the United States; the following states have the highest rate of offenders.

Starting in the 1980s, drunk driving laws were made significantly harsher across the United States. These harsher punishments have helped significantly reduce the number of drunk driving fatalities over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, driving under the influence remains a significant problem. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calculated that almost 30 people die in drunk driving crashes each day—roughly one person every 50 minutes. In fact, drunk driving remains the leading cause of driving-related fatalities in the country. 

Trauma aside, crashes involving drunk driving also incur significant costs. Damages due to driving under the influence totaled 44 billion dollars in costs in 2010, according to the NHTSA. Curious about which places in the U.S. suffer the highest cost due to drinking? The data science team at Insurify decided to take a deeper look at the states with the highest percentage of drivers with prior DUI violations.

Insights

  • National averages. According to Insurify’s data, 2.27 percent of drivers around the country have a prior citation for a DUI. Additionally, 12.70 percent of motorists have at least one prior accident on their driving record, and 17.78 percent of adults nationwide report excessive or binge drinking. 
  • Fewer people, more drinking and driving? None of the fifteen most populous states have the highest DUI rates. In fact, all but two of the territories on the list ranked in the bottom half of the country by total population. Less populous states clearly have fewer population centers, which might lead to more open roads and fewer public transportation and ride-sharing options. Both of these factors might help explain the correlation between low population levels and high rates of DUI in these states. 
  • More drunks, more violations. Eight of the top 10 states reported binge drinking rates that were above the national average of 17.78 percent. A brief analysis of rates of excessive drinking in each state and percentage of drivers with a DUI reveals that there is a small but significant correlation between the rate of binge drinking and the proportion of drivers with a prior DUI violation. 
  • But not more accidents. It might be logical to assume that a high percentage of drivers with a prior DUI would lead to more accidents. After all, according to the NHTSA, about one-third of all fatal traffic crashes involve a drunk driver. Surprisingly, however, there is no significant correlation between the percentage of drivers with a DUI violation and the percentage of drivers with at least one accident on their driving record.

Methodology 

To determine which states have the highest proportions of drivers with prior DUIs, Insurify’s data scientists  took a look at the numbers from their database of over two million car insurance applications. To apply for quotes, drivers input personal and vehicle information as well as driving history from the past seven years, including whether or not they have been cited for a DUI. The team analyzed the number of drivers with DUI’s against the total number of drivers to find the percentage of drivers with a DUI in each state. The team then used Insurify’s database to obtain additional data on the percentage of drivers with an accident in each state. Data related to the proportion of adults who reported excessive drinking come from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

States With the Most DUIs 

10. Iowa

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI:  3.52%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 13.24%
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Binge Drinking: 21.3%

Kicking off the countdown is Iowa, one of six states from the midwest in the top 10. Just over 3.5 percent of drivers in the Hawkeye State have a prior DUI violation on their driving records, despite the state having very strict laws against drunk driving. First-time offenders face anywhere between 48 hours to one year in jail, and a fine starting at $625.

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9. Nebraska

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 3.65%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 14.61% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 20.4%

In addition to cracking the top 10 in percentage of drivers with a DUI, Nebraska also has a problem with car accidents. 14.61 percent of motorists also report having been involved in at least one accident, a number which ranks eighth-worst in the country. 

8. Montana

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 3.69%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 10.13%
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 21.3%

Each one of the 50 states mandates that motorists convicted of driving under the influence pay a fine, but Montana’s financial penalties are actually among the most lenient. Fines start at just $300, and go up to $1000. For comparison, in Oregon—the state with the most severe fines—getting caught drunk behind the wheel can cost as much as $6250. Those comparatively lenient penalties, combined with the fact that over 1-in-5 adults in Montana reports excessive drinking, might help explain why the Treasure State has one of the highest DUI rates in the country. 

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7. Idaho

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 3.7%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 12.34% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 14.8%

Montana’s neighbor also doesn’t have a sterling reputation when it comes to drinking and driving. Idaho does, however, have the lowest share of binge drinking adults among the 10 states on the list, and a percentage of drivers with a prior accident well below the national average. However, its rate of drivers with a DUI is still roughly 1.63 times the national average.

6. Minnesota 

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 3.83%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 11.38%
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 20.5%

In Minnesota, the percentage of drivers with a DUI is 1.68 times the national average, and to make matters worse, more than 1-in-5 adults reportedly drink to excess. The problem also apparently extends beyond just ordinary citizens. At the beginning of January, the mayor of Eagan, Minnesota—who is currently in his fourth term in office—was arrested and charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated after hitting a snowbank while driving.

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5. Alaska

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 4.11%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 14.09% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 20.0%

Alaska is just one of four in the top 10 states with the most DUIs that’s outside the Midwest.Stil, Alaska’s  rate of drivers with a DUI is well above the national average, as is the rate of self-reporting binge-drinking adults. However, The Last Frontier is also one of just 15 states that requires people convicted of DUI to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicle, forcing drivers to blow into a mouthpiece on their car before starting their car.

4. Wisconsin

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 4.33%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 13.72% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 24.4% 

Just one state has a higher percentage of adults that report binge drinking than Wisconsin, but it’s not all bad news when it comes to alcohol in the Badger State. In fact, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation data, vehicle-related deaths due to alcohol consumption have decreased from 159 in 2018 to 136 in 2019, a reduction of nearly 15 percent. 

3. South Dakota 

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 4.57%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 11.56% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 17.9%

South Dakota has a proportion of adults reporting excessive drinking that is roughly in line with national averages, but the Mount Rushmore State nevertheless has a rate of drivers with prior DUI violations that is more than double the national average. Interestingly, Dakota News Now found data indicating  that these DUI violations might not all happen late at night. In fact, 18 percent of DUI arrests happen in Sioux Falls between the hours of 6 AM and 6 PM, a 12-hour period not commonly considered a time to drink. 

2. Wyoming

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 5.16%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 11.99% 
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 16.9%

Wyoming is by far the least populated state in the country, but still has the second highest percentage of drivers with a prior DUI. DUIs aside, Wyoming has the second-lowest percentage of adults reporting excessive drinking among states on the list. Wyoming’s proportion of drivers with an accident is almost 33 percent less than the national average of 17.78 percent.

1. North Dakota

  • Percentage of Drivers with a DUI: 5.17%
  • Percentage of Drivers with an Accident: 12.4%
  • Percent of Adults Reporting Excessive Drinking: 24.9%

Rounding out the countdown is North Dakota. In the Peace Garden State, the percentage of drivers with a DUI is astonishingly 2.27 times the national average of 2.27 percent. On top of that, approximately 1-in-4 adults report excessive drinking—the highest rate in the nation North Dakota’s relatively lenient penalties for drunk driving do not help the state crack down on impaired motorists. The maximum fine for a first DUI in North Dakota is $750. Only ten states have a maximum fine equal to or less than that number.

If you have questions or comments about this article, please contact insights@insurify.com.

Updated February 5, 2020

Insurify’s team of data scientists and content specialists presents Insurify Insights, a series of automotive, home, and health studies focusing on the topics that impact us all. Through expert analysis of over 2.5 million car insurance applications and an array of top data sources, the Insurify Insights team produces new data-driven articles, trend analyses, regional superlatives, and national rankings every week. See Insurify Insights as featured in Forbes, Fox News, USA Today, NPR, and more.