Drunk Driving Accidents Decrease Across U.S., But Many States Still Have Work to Do

Each year, there are nearly 5.5 million car accidents across the United States. And while speeding and distracted driving certainly cause their share, there’s no doubt that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous behavior that can often lead to colossal crashes. Over the holidays, DWI arrests tend to spike, but there is some good news. Nationwide, drunk driving accidents are actually decreasing. But some states can’t seem to escape their reputation for having high amounts of intoxicated crashes.

Data shows that although people drive drunk nearly 300,000 times on the average day, fewer than 4,000 are arrested for this crime. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), however, the number of drunk driving fatalities has been reduced by half since 1980. Currently, one in three traffic deaths across the country, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the reduction in fatalities may be linked to stricter legislation, increased police presence and sobriety checkpoints, and even ride sharing apps.

Still, not every state is celebrating. According to a recent report, which was compiled by a security company called Safewise using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a lot of locales throughout the nation are still experiencing too many alcohol-related deaths on roadways. Their findings revealed that Wyoming had the highest number of drunk driving fatalities, with 7.59 impaired driving deaths per 100,000 people. South Carolina was second on the list with 6.22 impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 people, which isn’t totally surprising when you consider that the state has 62% more fatal car crashes than the national average. North Dakota, New Mexico, and Alabama rounded out the top five worst states for drunk driving deaths.

Researchers theorize that lenient laws may be partially to blame. Of the top five, only South Carolina has minimum sentencing laws for first-time DUI offenders. And since four out of those top five states don’t even require alcohol abuse assessments or treatment for those convicted of drunk driving, that may mean that those offenders are more likely to repeat those mistakes in the future. DUI conviction fines are lower in these states too: while the states with the lowest number of drunk driving deaths force those convicted of these crimes to pay upwards of $500, the average minimum fine for first-time DUI convictions in the worst places is only $300.

In contrast, states like New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Utah, and Massachusetts fared well in the report, each with less than two fatalities per 100,000 people in 2017. And since Safewise believes that the worst offenders are still capable of change, the company decided to offer $10 Lyft rides on New Year’s Eve to the first 100 residents living in the top five deadliest states. Whether or not the discounted cost will make a difference remains to be seen, but previous data indicates it’s not too late for these states to turn things around.

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