January 6, 2022

[year] State of Driving in the U.S.: DUIs, Tickets, and Accidents

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As one of the largest and most diverse countries, the United States has an array of communities, from cities to farmland to suburbs. While you can hit 85 mph legally on certain Texas roads, you’ll find yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic in an urban area like LA, barely exceeding 5 mph. Factors like state laws, population densities, and police presence make driving in the U.S. a wildly variable experience.

We analyzed data from 724,398 auto insurance customer inquiries in 2021, as well as data supplied by the FBI and the U.S. Census Bureau. Using our proprietary data along with national arrest and population data, this report outlines the state of driving in the United States for 2021. Here are our key findings:

  • Driving under the influence: 1 in 50 drivers in the U.S. has had a DUI incident in the past five years. Residents of Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wyoming have the highest DUI rates at 4 percent each, twice the national average. In 2019 alone, Wyoming had the third-highest DUI arrest rate at 0.81 percent of all licensed drivers, 57 percent higher than the national average of 0.35 percent.
  • Car accidents: 12 percent of drivers in the U.S. have been involved in at-fault car accidents in the past five years, which equates to over 27 million drivers. People living in Hawaii and Michigan are 50 percent less likely to get in car accidents than the rest of the country, while people living in Massachusetts, Ohio, and South Carolina are 33 percent more likely.
  • Tickets: 3 out of every 100 drivers in the U.S., or about 6.9 million drivers, have received two or more tickets in the past five years, compared with 4 out of every 100 residents of the top 50 cities. You’re most likely to be ticketed in New York City, with 7 in 100 drivers receiving two or more tickets in the past five years.
  • Rural vs. urban areas: People living in rural areas were 43 percent more likely to be arrested for DUIs than people living in suburban areas and 34 percent more likely than people living in urban areas (as of the most recent data, from 2018).

DUIs

Across the board, crime is more common in cities, which have higher population densities than rural or suburban areas. One exception, however, is DUIs, or driving under the influence. DUIs are actually more common in rural areas than in cities and suburbs.

Type of area Nonmetropolitan counties Metropolitan counties Suburban areas
Number of people arrested for driving under the influence in 2018 103,148 190,174 331,305
U.S. population in 2018 (estimated) 17,352,148 48,986,577 97,716,355
Percentage of total area’s population arrested for DUIs in 2018 0.59% 0.39% 0.34%

In 2018, the last year the FBI collected national arrest data for DUIs, people in rural areas were 34 percent more likely to be arrested for DUIs than people in metropolitan areas, and 42 percent more likely than people in suburban areas.1

Why are DUIs so much more common in rural areas, with the lowest numbers for the suburbs? Cities and suburban areas have more public transportation and ride-sharing options, which people can utilize instead of driving drunk. Rural areas also have fewer police, lower DUI enforcement, lower populations, and more peer pressure, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health.2

By State

First, we should acknowledge that the threshold for driving drunk differs by state, as each state has its own standards for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). For example, in New York, where we live, the zero-tolerance level is 0.02, meaning that drivers under 21 can’t have BACs over 0.02 percent. For the rest of us, the BAC level increases to 0.08 percent, with worse penalties for BACs of 0.18 percent.3

The states with the highest percentages of residents who have been arrested for DUIs in the past five years are Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska at 4 percent each. Compared to the national average of 3 percent, residents of these states are 33 percent more likely to be arrested for DUIs. This information tracks with the FBI data, as these states are largely rural.

State Percentage of people who have had a DUI in the past 5 years
Idaho 4%
Minnesota 4%
North Dakota 4%
Wyoming 4%
Alaska 3%
Colorado 3%
Iowa 3%
Indiana 3%
Kentucky 3%
Maine 3%
Montana 3%
Nebraska 3%
Ohio 3%
South Dakota 3%
Wisconsin 3%
Arkansas 2%
Arizona 2%
California 2%
Connecticut 2%
Hawaii 2%
Kansas 2%
Missouri 2%
North Carolina 2%
New Mexico 2%
Nevada 2%
Oregon 2%
Pennsylvania 2%
Tennessee 2%
Utah 2%
Virginia 2%
Washington 2%
West Virginia 2%
Alabama 1%
Washington, D.C. 1%
Delaware 1%
Florida 1%
Georgia 1%
Illinois 1%
Louisiana 1%
Massachusetts 1%
Maryland 1%
Michigan 1%
Mississippi 1%
New Hampshire 1%
New Jersey 1%
New York 1%
Oklahoma 1%
Rhode Island 1%
South Carolina 1%
Texas 1%
Vermont 1%

By City

Aside from statewide data, we also analyzed data from the top 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the U.S. as per the 2019 U.S. Census.

Metropolitan statistical area Percentage of people who have been arrested for a DUI in the past 5 years (from most to least)
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3%
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 3%
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 3%
Columbus, OH 3%
Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 3%
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 3%
Pittsburgh, PA 3%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 2%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 2%
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 2%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 2%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 2%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 2%
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 2%
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 2%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 2%
Kansas City, MO-KS 2%
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 2%
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2%
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA 2%
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 2%
Rochester, NY 2%
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 2%
Richmond, VA 2%
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 1%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 1%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 1%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 1%
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 1%
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 1%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 1%
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 1%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 1%
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 1%
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 1%
Baltimore-Towson, MD 1%
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 1%
Jacksonville, FL 1%
St. Louis, MO-IL 1%
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 1%
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 1%
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 1%
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1%
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN 1%
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 1%
Birmingham-Hoover, AL 1%
Columbia, SC 1%
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC 1%
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 1%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 1%

The most common cities for drunk driving arrests are Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Columbus, and Milwaukee, where 3 percent of drivers have been arrested for DUIs. Notably, all of these cities are in the Midwest, much like the top four states for DUI arrests.

Accidents

It’s no secret that accidents increase the cost of insurance. Traffic accidents are more common in certain states, bringing up the average cost of car insurance for those at fault.

By State

The most common states for car accidents are Massachusetts, Ohio, and South Carolina, which are tied at 16 percent, compared with the national average of 12 percent. This means residents in these states are 33 percent more likely to have been involved in an at-fault accident in the last five years than the rest of the country.

State Percentage of people who have been in an at-fault car accident in the past 5 years
Massachusetts 16%
Ohio 16%
South Carolina 16%
Maryland 15%
Maine 15%
Georgia 14%
Idaho 14%
Nebraska 14%
New Hampshire 14%
Rhode Island 14%
Utah 14%
Iowa 13%
Oregon 13%
Wisconsin 13%
West Virginia 13%
Alabama 12%
Connecticut 12%
Washington, D.C. 12%
Florida 12%
Indiana 12%
Kentucky 12%
Missouri 12%
Montana 12%
North Carolina 12%
Tennessee 12%
Virginia 12%
Vermont 12%
Washington 12%
Arkansas 11%
Arizona 11%
California 11%
Colorado 11%
Delaware 11%
Kansas 11%
Louisiana 11%
Minnesota 11%
North Dakota 11%
New Jersey 11%
New York 11%
Pennsylvania 11%
South Dakota 11%
Wyoming 11%
Nevada 10%
Oklahoma 10%
Texas 10%
Alaska 9%
Illinois 9%
Mississippi 8%
New Mexico 8%
Hawaii 6%
Michigan 6%

The states with the lowest accident rates are Hawaii and Michigan at 6 percent each, meaning their residents are half as likely to be involved in car accidents as the rest of the U.S.

By City

Metropolitan statistical area Percentage of people who have had an at-fault car accident in the past 5 years (high to low)
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC 18%
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 17%
Columbia, SC 17%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 16%
Baltimore-Towson, MD 16%
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 16%
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 16%
Columbus, OH 16%
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 15%
Rochester, NY 15%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 14%
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 14%
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 14%
Pittsburgh, PA 14%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 13%
Jacksonville, FL 13%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 13%
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 13%
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 13%
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA 13%
Birmingham-Hoover, AL 13%
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 13%
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 12%
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 12%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 12%
St. Louis, MO-IL 12%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 12%
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 12%
Kansas City, MO-KS 12%
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 12%
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 12%
Richmond, VA 12%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 12%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 11%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 11%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 11%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 11%
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN 11%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 11%
Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 11%
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 11%
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 10%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 10%
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 10%
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 10%
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 10%
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 10%
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 10%
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 9%
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 5%

The cities with the most car accidents per driver are Charleston, Cincinnati, Columbia, Buffalo, and Baltimore: 18 percent of drivers in these states have gotten into car accidents, compared with 13 percent of the rest of the country. That means the average Baltimorean is 33 percent more likely to have been involved in a car accident than drivers in the top 50 MSAs.

The city with the lowest accident rate was Detroit, where only 5 percent of people have had an at-fault accident in the past five years. That’s 160 percent lower than the rest of the top 50 MSAs.

Have you ever wondered why car insurance in Michigan is so expensive? It’s because of Michigan’s strict auto insurance requirements, the high cost of medical bills, the high number of uninsured drivers, insurance fraud, and lawsuits, along with a relatively low minimum wage. Perhaps that’s why accident rates are so low, to avoid making the cost of car insurance in Michigan ever higher.

Tickets

Tickets are another factor that could increase the cost of auto insurance. Not surprisingly, we found that higher numbers of police lead to more tickets overall. For example, Washington, D.C., has both the highest police presence and the highest ticket rates.

By State

In D.C., 8 percent of licensed drivers had received two or more tickets in the past five years, the highest rate in the country. Aside from D.C., the states with the highest rates of tickets are New York at 7 percent and Maryland at 6 percent.

State Percentage of people who have had 2 or more tickets in the past 5 years Percentage of people with 2 or more tickets in the past 5 years over number of police officers
Washington, D.C. 8% 0.061
New York 7% 0.079
Maryland 6% 0.063
Alaska 5% 0.054
Colorado 5% 0.037
Illinois 5% 0.025
Iowa 5% 0.047
Minnesota 5% 0.039
Ohio 5% 0.041
Washington 5% 0.054
Wisconsin 5% 0.031
Delaware 4% 0.062
Georgia 4% 0.073
Indiana 4% 0.034
Michigan 4% 0.056
Missouri 4% 0.04
Nebraska 4% 0.038
New Jersey 4% 0.028
Oregon 4% 0.048
Pennsylvania 4% 0.038
South Carolina 4% 0.071
Virginia 4% 0.036
Alabama 3% 0.036
Arizona 3% 0.023
California 3% 0.016
Florida 3% 0.061
Idaho 3% 0.027
Kansas 3% 0.023
Louisiana 3% 0.039
North Dakota 3% 0.024
Oklahoma 3% 0.026
South Dakota 3% 0.024
Tennessee 3% 0.025
Utah 3% 0.035
Vermont 3% 0.027
West Virginia 3% 0.039
Wyoming 3% 0.017
Arkansas 2% 0.023
Connecticut 2% 0.024
Hawaii 2% 0.007
Kentucky 2% 0.037
Maine 2% 0.014
Massachusetts 2% 0.014
Mississippi 2% 0.034
Montana 2% 0.02
Nevada 2% 0.038
New Hampshire 2% 0.013
New Mexico 2% 0.024
North Carolina 2% 0.024
Rhode Island 2% 0.03
Texas 2% 0.0214

By City

Metropolitan statistical area Percentage of people who have had 2 or more tickets in the past 5 years (high to low)
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 7%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6%
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 6%
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 5%
Baltimore-Towson, MD 5%
St. Louis, MO-IL 5%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 5%
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 5%
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 5%
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 5%
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 5%
Rochester, NY 5%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 4%
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 4%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 4%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 4%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 4%
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 4%
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 4%
Columbus, OH 4%
Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 4%
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 4%
Columbia, SC 4%
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC 4%
Pittsburgh, PA 4%
Richmond, VA 4%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 3%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 3%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 3%
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 3%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 3%
Jacksonville, FL 3%
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 3%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 3%
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 3%
Kansas City, MO-KS 3%
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 3%
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA 3%
Birmingham-Hoover, AL 3%
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 3%
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 2%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 2%
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 2%
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 2%
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 2%
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2%
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN 2%
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 2%
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 2%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 2%

The top cities for tickets are New York City; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Baltimore; and Denver. Three of these cities — New York, D.C., and Chicago — are in the top 10 most populated cities in the U.S.

You are most likely to get ticketed in New York City, where 7 percent of drivers have had tickets, compared with the 4 percent national average. New Yorkers are 43 percent more likely to get ticketed than drivers living in the rest of the top 50 MSAs. As faithful Brooklyn residents who have forgotten to move their cars for street sweeping more than once, we empathize.

Recap

When it comes to auto insurance, your state matters. States have different minimum coverage requirements, population densities, and crime rates, all of which affect the cost of auto insurance. Explore more of our auto insurance research here.

Methodology

We used proprietary data from Datalot, AutoInsurance.com’s parent company, collected from 724,398 auto insurance inquiries from May to October 2021. We also used third-party data from the U.S. Census, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, FindLaw, and the Rubinstein Law Offices.

Citations

  1. Cities and Counties Grouped by Size (Population Group). FBI. (2019).
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/topic-pages/persons-arrested-browse-by/cities-and-counties-grouped-by-size-population-group

  2. Context and Culture: Reasons Young Adults Drink and Drive in Rural America. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018, Sept 22).
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6223126/

  3. Comparing State DUI Laws. FindLaw. (2020, Feb 3).
    https://www.findlaw.com/dui/laws-resources/comparing-state-dui-laws.html

  4. Number of full-time equivalent state and local police officers in the United States in 2020, by state. Statistsa. (2021, July 19).
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/750805/number-of-state-and-local-police-in-the-us-by-state/