Latest News 2017 October Do Strict DUI Laws Actually Work?

Do Strict DUI Laws Actually Work?

Since the 1960s, different states throughout the U.S. have seen a decline in overall traffic fatalities since implementing DUI laws. Prosecuting drivers for drinking and driving has made the roads safer—but does making strict laws necessarily translate to fewer deaths?

In 2015, a report about alcohol-related traffic deaths throughout the country from 1995-2013 was laid side-by-side with data about the relative strictness of each state's DUI laws. There were some results you might expect—the states with the lenient laws appeared to have the highest fatalities related to DUI. South Dakota was #1 as far as leniency…and #1 as far as number of DUI deaths.

Other states (Montana, North Dakota, Kentucky, and more) followed the same pattern: low strictness, high fatality rates. However, the story gets more complicated from there.

There were significant breaks from this pattern elsewhere in the country. Arizona had the strictest DUI policies, which might lead you to believe that it would have the lowest fatality rate. In fact, Arizona had the 17th highest fatality rate—an average score. West Virginia has among the strictest DUI laws (fourth nationwide), but also had the fourth highest fatality rate.

For the most populous states in the country (California, Florida, New York, and Texas), there was no correlation between strict policies and low fatalities. California and New York have relatively lenient DUI laws, but both had fairly low fatality rates. Texas and Florida have stricter-than-average laws, but have average fatality rates.

Strict & Lenient DUI States on List of Lowest Fatalities Nationwide

According to "common sense" (at least employed by legislative bodies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the states with the ten lowest DUI deaths would have the strictest laws, right? Those states are the ones whose models we should follow.

However, that's not the case at all. The best 10 list includes Alaska (second-most strict state in the nation) and Washington, D.C. (the second-most lenient region). Like we've mentioned, high fatality rates aren't closely associated with leniency either. The worst 10 states for DUI fatalities included West Virginia (fourth-most strict) to South Dakota (most lenient).

The Factor that Seems to Make the Difference

Rather than the laws, it's population density that predicts DUI fatalities. The states with the 10 lowest fatality rates had a population density six times larger than the states with the 10 highest fatality rates. The National Highway Traffic Administration reported that while only 1 in 5 people live in rural areas, more than half of all DUI deaths occur in rural regions.

Frankly, where there are more people, there will be more traffic regulation, lower speed limits, and more hospitals. That means less people die in urban areas than rural areas when a DUI crash occurs.

If you were subject to excessively strict DUI laws that led to your arrest, these findings suggest that you're paying for mistakes made on rural roads. The laws say they're designed to keep us safe—but it's unlikely that strict DUI laws are keeping anyone safe. If anything, building more hospitals and enforcing lower speed limits are the secret to lowering DUI fatalities. The answer is not unnecessarily punishing DUI offenders for minor infractions.

Categories: DUI Accidents