If you want to avoid highway drunkards this New Year's Eve, steer clear of Wyoming.
In 2006, Wyoming reported 384 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver who was legally drunk, and 475 alcohol-related crash fatalities overall. That comes out to 13 drunken driving-related deaths that year for every 100,000 people living in the state, a rate that makes Wyoming the worst for drunken-driving deaths.Doug McGee, a spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, says its status as a "bridge" -- where many travelers are passing through -- contributes to the number of fatalities. (Wyoming has the lowest population of any state, with only 515,000 residents as of 2006).
|U.S. States by Deadliest Drunken Drivers |
|Rank ||State ||2006 Estimated Population ||Drunken Driving-Related Fatalities Per 100,000 People in 2006 |
|1 ||Wyoming ||515,004 ||13.01 |
|2 ||Mississippi ||2,910,540 ||10.99 |
|3 ||Montana ||944,632 ||10.90 |
|4 ||South Carolina ||4,3212,49 ||9.72 |
|5 ||South Dakota ||781,919 ||8.82 |
|For the complete list of U.S. States by Deadliest Drunken Drivers, click here. |
However, the folks at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) cite its law against sobriety checkpoints as a bigger problem. Eleven states, including Wyoming, deem these checkpoints -- where police officers will stop vehicles to determine the drivers' sobriety -- unconstitutional, despite a 1990 United States Supreme Court ruling saying otherwise.Misty Morse, a spokeswoman for MADD, says that the organization uses about 38 tests to determine each state's progress when it comes to preventing drunken-driving deaths. She says there are a few key laws that make a difference.Along with laws that insist on sobriety checkpoints, an ignition interlock device can also prove effective, says Morse. The gadget, similar to a Breathalyzer, is installed in the dashboard. For the car to start, the driver must breathe into the device. Too much alcohol on the breath? The car won't start."We've found that when convicted drunken drivers are given a short, hard license suspension with a longer period of time where they cannot drive without breathing into an interlock, the state's drunken-driving fatalities are lower," says Morse.New York State exemplifies the benefits of more stringent laws. From 2005 to 2006, the number of drunken driving-related fatalities decreased by 4.8% to just 2.06 per 100,000 people. That's the smallest number in the country. MADD says the state's success is due to the strong presence of sobriety checkpoints and interlock devices.The urban population also helps the state's record. Of the 19.3 million people in New York State, about 8 million live in New York City. Of those 8 million, more than 75% do not own a car, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.So watching the ball drop in crowded Times Square might not be as nerve-racking as the drive home from Grandma's house in Montana, where there are nearly 11 drunken driving- related deaths per 100,000 people each year.Methodology
To determine the deadliest drunken-driving states, we looked at the number of drunken driving-related fatalities in each state according to a compilation of motor-vehicle crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System. Released in August 2007 by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the numbers reflect fatalities in 2006.We then multiplied by 100,000 and divided the result by the Census population estimates for 2006. This determined the states with the most accident-related fatalities per capita where at least one driver had a blood-alcohol content of .08 or more.