Drunk driving statistics | finder.com

Drunk driving stats

Which state is the booziest? Which one has the most drunk driving deaths?

Though drunk driving rates appear on the decline, there are still too many Americans who lose their lives at the hands of inebriated drivers each year.

In 2015, more than 10,000 Americans lost their lives in an accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver. In fact, drunk drivers accounted for 29% of all fatalities on American roads that year.

But just how often do Americans mix alcohol with driving? Which states record the most drunk driving deaths? And how likely is it that you’ll get involved with a drunk driver on the road?

Which states are home to the most drunk driving?

12, 074 people died in an alcohol-related road accident in 2015. Those drunk drivers had a BAC of at least .01%, but many had a BAC over .08, the legal limit for driving. Drunk driving and blackouts contribute to road fatalities in every state in the US.

Of course, larger states typically mean more drivers behind the wheel to begin with, hence a higher propensity for accidents. Texas, Florida and California were among the states with the highest number of drunk driving deaths.

Total drunk driving deaths per state

Drunk driving deaths with BAC over the legal limit .08

Most total drunk driving deaths over .08

  • Texas — 1,323
  • California — 914
  • Florida — 797
  • North Carolina — 411
  • Georgia — 366

Fewest total drunk driving deaths over .08

  • Washington, DC — 6
  • Vermont — 15
  • Rhode Island — 19
  • Alaska — 23
  • New Hampshire — 33

Drunk driving deaths by percent of population

What’s really scary is breaking down the number of drunk driving deaths in relation to a state’s population.

For example, Florida’s roads saw 797 drunk driving deaths in 2015. For context, these deaths accounted for 0.14% of the state’s total population. The next closest was Ohio at 313 deaths, representing 0.05% of the population.

Highest percent of drunk driving deaths by population

You have a higher chance of getting in an accident with a drunk driver in these states.

  • Florida
  • Ohio
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina

Lowest percent of drunk driving deaths by population

These 11 states have a much lower percentage of drunk driving deaths for the total population.

  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.

American drinking habits

Americans on the whole love a good drink. An estimated 148 million of us drink an average of seven alcoholic beverages weekly.

As a nation, we spend $5.4 billion a week on alcohol — that’s an average $36.56 per person. Every week. Or almost $2,000 a year on booze.

Which drinks are we knocking back?

The most popular beverage by a landslide is beer, with 39.53% of American adults drinking an average of five beers weekly.

Men are more likely to soak back the suds — some 53.4% of men pick up a weekly can of beer, compared with 26.48% of women who do the same. The top choice for women wanting a drink is wine, with 37.54% of women saying they drink an average of two glasses a week.

When it comes to spirits, here too do men drink more: An estimated 36.49% sip on liquor, compared with 18.43% of women.

Which age group are the hardest drinkers?

It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that millennials are more likely to consume hard liquor or moonshine than Gen Xers or baby boomers. Millennials actually drink twice as much as those two generations combined!

Which states drink the most alcohol?

New Hampshire residents take the top spot for drinking, consuming an average of 4.72 gallons of alcohol annually per person. That includes beer, wine and liquor. New Hampshire’s total is more than three times that for people living in Utah, who drink a comparatively modest 1.39 gallons a year.

Other heavy drinkers? Those in Nevada, home of Las Vegas, who tipple more than 3 gallons a year each.

Top 5 drunkest states

  • New Hampshire — 4.72 gallons
  • Washington, DC — 3.82 gallons
  • Delaware — 3.68 gallons
  • Nevada — 3.32 gallons
  • North Dakota — 3.25 gallons

What does each state drink?

What percent of road deaths involve drunk driving?

Out of all road deaths in the US, what percent involved drunk drivers compared to sober drivers? 29% of all road deaths involved a drunk driver in 2015, as the national average. That means out of 35,092 total road deaths, about a third of them, around 10,265 total, involved drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher — the legal limit for DUI.

How does each state compare to the national average?

Some states saw a higher percent of drunk driving deaths compared to road deaths not involving alcohol. Rhode Island has the highest percent at 43%. Out of all road accidents resulting in death in this state, almost half of them involved a drunk driver.

Higher percent of road deaths that involve drunk driving

  • Rhode Island — 43%
  • Connecticut — 39%
  • Wyoming — 38%
  • Texas — 38%
  • North Dakota — 38%

Lower percent of road deaths that involve drunk driving

  • Utah — 16%
  • New Jersey — 20%
  • Indiana — 22%
  • Iowa — 24%
  • Kansas — 24%

Comparing alcohol consumption and percent of drunk driving deaths

Does how much these states drink ultimately affect how many people are involved in alcohol-related accidents on its roads?

Surprisingly, no. The drunkest states don’t have a higher percentage of drunk driving deaths. Looking at the top five states for alcohol consumption, only one state — North Dakota — had a higher percent of drunk driving deaths, coming in at 38%.

Drunk driving limits in the US

What is BAC? Short for blood alcohol content, your BAC is the key factor law enforcement uses to determine whether you’re too drunk to drive.

All US states impose a limit of 0.08 — which means that 0.08% of your bloodstream is alcohol. But the legal BAC can vary depending on your age or whether you’re driving a commercial vehicle.

For instance, a Nevadan under the age of 21 can legally drive on the state’s roads with a BAC of 0.019. But once they hit the Arizona state line, they’re considered breaking the law: Arizona is a zero-tolerance state for drivers who are under 21.

Did you know?

Starting October 1, 2018, Michigan will bump its legal blood alcohol limit to 0.10, higher than every other state in the nation.

How many drinks does it take to reach a BAC of 0.08?

Many people have a general idea of how many drinks they can knock back before hitting the legal limit. Something like two drinks in the first hour and one every hour after that.

A more methodical system accounts for how long you’ve been drinking, the beverage you’re imbibing and even your weight and gender.

But a portable breathalyzer is the most accurate way to determine if you’re fit to drive.

Weight (lbs)100120140160180200220240
DrinksApproximate blood alcohol percentage
0.00.00.00.00.00.00.00.00Safe limit
1.04.03.03.02.02.02.02.02Driving affected
2.08.06.05.05.04.04.03.03Driving affected
3.11.09.08.07.06.06.05.05Driving affected
4.15.12.11.09.08.08.07.06Possible penalties
5.19.16.13.12.11.09.09.08Possible penalties
6.23.19.16.14.13.11.10.09Legally intoxicated
7.26.22.19.16.15.13.12.11Legally intoxicated
8.30.25.21.19.17.15.14.13Criminal penalties
9.34.28.24.21.19.17.15.14Criminal penalties
10.38.31.27.23.21.19.17.16Criminal penalties
Weight (lbs)90100120140160180200220240
DrinksApproximate blood alcohol percentage
0.00.00.00.00.00.00.00.00.00Safe limit
1.05.05.04.03.03.03.02.02.02Driving affected
2.10.09.08.07.06.05.05.04.04Driving affected
3.15.14.11.10.09.08.07.06.06Driving affected
4.20.18.15.13.11.10.09.08.08Possible penalties
5.25.23.19.16.14.13.11.10.09Possible penalties
6.30.27.23.19.17.15.14.12.11Legally intoxicated
7.35.32.27.23.20.18.16.14.13Legally intoxicated
8.40.36.30.26.23.20.18.17.15Criminal penalties
9.45.41.34.29.26.23.20.19.17Criminal penalties
10.51.45.38.32.28.25.23.21.19Criminal penalties

What other factors can affect your BAC?

Of the many variables that affect your ability to metabolize alcohol, there’s:

  • Gender. Women’s bodies tend to have less body water, resulting in a slower absorption and metabolization of alcohol than men.
  • Body fat. Fatty tissues don’t absorb alcohol well, which means that those with higher body fat can have higher BAC levels.
  • Time. Both the time since your last drink and the rate of which you’re drinking can affect your BAC.
  • Amount. Generally, the stronger the drink, the higher your BAC.
  • Food. Drinking on an empty stomach can peak your BAC.
  • Metabolism. How you metabolize food in general affects how your body absorbs the alcohol you drink.

How does alcohol affect your ability to drive?

Any amount of alcohol in your body can affect how you drive. Just a few drinks alters your concentration, your judgment and how you react to sudden traffic changes.

The more drinks you down, the more your vision, hearing and hand-eye coordination are impaired, making it more difficult to keep your vehicle driving in a straight line.

With enough alcohol in your system — starting at just 0.15 BAC — you might just blackout entirely behind the wheel.

Bottom line

Drunk driving is a nationwide problem, and to reduce the number of fatalities each year, it’s up to us to think twice before getting behind the wheel. A simple way to protect fellow drivers is establishing a designated driver (DD) before you go out for the evening.

If nobody volunteers to be DD, you can always leave your car at home and take the bus, a train or taxi, or more conveniently, call a rideshare. Drive safe!

You may also like

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site