There’s a song by country singer Dave Dudley entitled “Two Six Packs Away” where the baritone country star tells the story of getting liquored up, totaling his car, and winding up in prison for drunk driving. It’s a humorous take on a very serious subject, because regardless of how many road blocks are out there on a Saturday night, reports show that in 2014 alone more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
What’s even scarier is the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that on average, 4.2 million Americans admitted to driving drunk at least once in the past month, which fans out to around 121 million drunk drives per year. While license suspension or permanent revocation remains a threat, along with the impounding of a vehicle in question and prison time, people still cruise around completely schnockered, putting themselves and everyone else in grave danger. Hell, in 2014 6,391 drunk drivers lost their lives, and alcohol-impaired driving killed an additional 2,752 vehicle occupants and 824 non-occupants.
Looking to expose what it calls “the national landscape of DUI offenses and law enforcement,” addiction treatment specialists Project Know recently released a report that examines the frequency of DUI arrests in all 50 states. They then looked at the occurrence of these offenses in three major cities in order to provide a varied view of street-level DUI data in order to showcase what drunk driving looks like from a neighborhood perspective.
By pulling heavily from DUI arrest records in the FBI’s 2014 “Uniform Crime Report,” as well as from the Census Bureau’s 2014 findings, researchers were able to break down each state’s rate of DUI arrests per 10,000 people. They also unearthed information from a 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that shows the age demographics of drivers with a blood-alcohol-content (BAC) of .08 or more who were involved in fatal crashes. Their research also shows that in order to prevent DUI-related deaths, a much higher frequency of arrests is required, with about 6,000 DUI busts equaling out to the prevention of an additional five alcohol-related traffic deaths per year.
While North Dakota takes the cake for most DUI busts, with 90.12 arrests per 10,000 people, (nearly 1 arrest for every 100 individuals) it’s the fact that the incarceration rate for drunk driving nearly doubled in this state from 2013 to 2014 that got our attention. Next up came South Dakota, with 70.21 arrests per 10,000 people, while Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho rounded things out with respective rates that scored 64.06, 52.04, and 45.51. Despite being geographically clustered together, the one other unique factor that all of these states had in common was that they all have a very low population density, with four of them being among the 10 least densely populated states in North America. The recent boom in oil production might also be a factor.
So with fewer drivers on the road to contend with, extremely limited public transportation options, and greater distances to travel, cops in these states stand a much stronger chance of nabbing hammered drivers. Meanwhile, our nation’s capitol takes the trophy for having the lowest arrest rate in the country, with only 0.15 DUI arrests per 10,000 people, with Alabama coming in second with just 0.33 arrests, followed by Illinois (2.84), Delaware (3.57), and Hawaii (5.71).
Researchers also looked at drunk driving bust numbers and locations in three random cities, starting with Seattle, which saw its highest number of DUI arrests back in 2015. The greatest number of arrests in the home of grunge music occurred at the intersection of Aurora Avenue North and North 85th Street, with 32 busts in total, which makes sense being that this area has long been earmarked for increased crime.
Even though local business owners complain that cops still aren’t doing enough, this section of the city has double the arrest rates of the next two runners-up, both of which had 16 DUI arrests a piece. One of these was 15th Avenue, which is also known for being one of the top six accident prone spots in Seattle, and is home to several bars. The University of Washington in Seattle had 88 total alcohol related arrests in 2015, most of which took place in the vicinity of the campus.
Moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which in 2015 featured Florida Street, Nicholson Drive, Perkins Road, College Drive, and Florida Boulevard as its top hotspots for DUI arrests. The area commonly referred to as “Tigerland” near bar-laden Bob Pettit Boulevard also scored high marks, as it has long been a crime capitol, with LSU staff, police, and property owners proposing the use of surveillance cameras and license plate readers. Also topping the list were alcohol offenses like drinking while in a motor vehicle and failing to stop at a stop sign, which often led to collisions, with many drivers clocking in a blood alcohol level that was almost twice the legal limit.
Interstate 12 (near exit 4) also had a mess-load of DUI arrests, and was the scene of one particular 2015 incident where a state trooper was beaned by a drunk driver while investigating a crash caused by another plastered person. Arrests around the Louisiana State University campus were highlighted by a hotspot barely a block west of Tiger Stadium, where in 2014, LSU recorded 167 on-campus arrests for liquor law violations.
Last on the random audit list was Kansas City, Missouri, where a strong concentration of DUI incidents were tightly clustered near Main Street, Broadway Street, and an area surrounding East 39th Street. High levels of arrests were also seen near The Paseo and East 35th Street, where DUI busts were not nearly as concentrated as the other two locations, with North and East 29th Street only seeing 22 arrests. An intersection of West 115th Street and Wornall Road also saw nearly as many violations, with 20 DUI arrests in total for the year, and another 18 were logged at the corner of Jarboe Street and West 38th Street.
Researchers also focused on DUI arrests around the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the largest university in the city, where over 16,000 students go to school, and streets like East 50th, East 51st, and Wornall Road all got flagged for DUI busts. UMKC reported issuing 68 disciplinary actions for on-campus violations of liquor laws in 2014 alone.
It may come as no surprise that drivers aged 21 to 24 are the most likely to be involved in a fatal crash when they have a blood alcohol level above .08. Findings also show that 27.9% of millennials admitted to binge drinking within the past month, which breaks down to drinking around 8.4 alcoholic beverages in one sitting and then hopping behind the wheel.
The sad part about all of this is that no matter what crack downs the cops enforce upon Americans, people are still going to get fired up on their poison of choice and go hit the highway. America is a massive place, and even in the armpit of the deepest urban jungle you will find people opting to drive drunk, for fear of something happening to their car. Even with cab companies, ride sharing, and ride apps like Uber and Lyft on tap, our infrastructure has become so automotive-dependent in the last 50 years that the thought of not driving to the bar and back seems absurd.
So buckle up and watch out for one another, because for as enlightening as this data may be, there will always be a horde of drunk drivers out there, many of whom habitually cruise around under the false premise that they’ve got their shit together. Strapping oneself inside 2 tons of metal and glass and harnessed to a canister of highly combustible liquid is already dangerous enough as it is, and the minute you let your guard down is usually when things suddenly spiral out of control.