Wisconsin Is the ‘Drunkest’ State in the U.S., but It Doesn’t Have the Most Drunk Drivers

Alcohol and DUIs play a huge role in car accidents nationwide. Nevertheless, there are some states where alcohol consumption and drunk driving are bigger problems than others. Surprisingly, the “drunkest” state, Wisconsin, isn’t actually the state with the largest number of drunk drivers. That dubious distinction goes to another state in the Midwest. 

Wisconsin has the most excessive drinkers

Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteer Janet Priewe of Wisconsin holds up picture posters of drunk driving victims
MADD volunteer Janet Priewe of Wisconsin holds up photos of drunk driving victims | Michael Smith/Newsmakers

A study by 24/7 Tempo reveals that Wisconsin has the highest share of adults who report excessive drinking. 24.2% of Wisconsin adults surveyed reported drinking excessively. That number is significantly above the national average of 19%.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines excessive drinking for men as having at least five drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks per week. For women, those numbers are four and eight, respectively.

The Wisconsin metro area with the highest rate of excessive drinking is Madison, at 27.8%, The Center Square reports. Meanwhile, the drunkest county is Pierce, where 28.6% of adults fall into the category of excessive drinkers. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many of Wisconsin’s residents imbibe large amounts of alcohol. After all, with Wisconsin being the home of the Miller Brewing Company and many other breweries, drinking is a part of the state culture.

But North Dakota has the most DUIs

Although Wisconsinites may do a lot of drinking, residents of other states are likelier to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Number one on the list of states with the most DUIs is North Dakota, Insurify reports.

The rate of drunk driving in North Dakota is more than twice the national average. 5.17% of drivers in the Peace Garden State have a DUI on their record, while the national average is only 2.27%.

But it’s not really surprising that drunk driving is so prevalent in the state, given that nearly a quarter of residents are excessive drinkers. With these facts, it’s not surprising that alcohol-related accidents are common in the state. Indeed, although it sounds hard to believe, more than 43% of traffic fatalities in North Dakota involve drunk driving. 

North Dakota’s lax penalties for drunk driving also don’t help matters. With a maximum fine of only $750 for a first-time offense, the state comes in well below average in terms of fines levied on impaired motorists. Compare that with Oregon, where drunk driving fines can reach $6,250, and you can see why drunk driving is hard to stamp out in the Peace Garden State. 

Midwesterners are big drinkers overall

Though North Dakota and Wisconsin top the list of excessive drinking, several Midwestern neighbors are not far behind. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois round out the top six states on the list of places where excessive drinking is prevalent. 

The list of states with the most DUIs is just slightly more varied. Wyoming comes in at number two, while South Dakota ranks third and Wisconsin fourth. Alaska comes in at number five. Given that other states in the top 10 include Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Iowa, it seems that living in remote cold-weather locales can drive some folks to imbibe more than they should before getting behind the wheel.  

Drunk driving has devastated many lives. More than 10,000 people in the United States die yearly in drinking-related accidents. The more that states can do to deter excessive drinking and drunk driving, the safer our roads will be for all. 

RELATED: These 10 States Get the Most DUIs in America