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Report Shows Oklahomans Among the Least Responsible Drinkers

01-Jul-2013

A Buzzfeed article published last week indicates that Oklahoma ranks number two in the nation for having the least responsible drinkers, second only to Mississippi. 

Using statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the report compiled statistics about the quantity of alcohol consumed in each state with the number of fatal alcohol-related accidents in order to determine the most and least responsible drinker. The states with higher quantities of alcohol consumption and lower incidents of fatal drunk driving accidents were considered to have the most responsible drinkers. 

New Hampshire is ranked as being the most responsible when it comes to drinking and driving. The report indicates that residents of this state drink, on average, 4.38 gallons of alcohol per person each year. However, the state has only 35 DUI deaths per million licensed drivers annually. Oklahoma, which consumes only 1.95 gallons of alcohol per person has 114 DUI deaths per million licensed drivers each year. This means that although Oklahomans drink less than half of what "the most responsible drinkers" drink, they have more than three times more alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

This report, however, only indicates a comparison between quantity of alcohol consumed and number of DUI fatalities. It does not take into account many important considerations that could demonstrate other causes for a higher number of DUI accidents.

For example, New Hampshire is a small state of only 9,350 square miles. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is nearly seven times larger at 69,960 square miles. Consider also the population density of these states. New Hampshire is 21st in the nation with 147 inhabitants per square mile. Oklahoma comes in 35th with 55.22 inhabitants per square mile. Nearly three times as many people live in a square mile of New Hampshire than they do in Oklahoma.  

What do these details have to do with drunk driving and responsibility? Let's say an Oklahoman spends the evening at a bar with friends and decides to drive himself home. He or she likely has to drive 15 miles or more to get home, with the possibility of a fatal accident haunting every mile. Someone in New Hampshire making the same decision to drive after drinking may have a much shorter commute home. He has the same possibility of a fatal DUI accident, but he is on the road a shorter length of time, essentially reducing his risk.

Additionally, New Hampshire has a public transportation system featuring 11 local bus systems and an intercity bus system. Oklahoma has fewer public transportation opportunities, and very little in the way of intercity transportation. This ready access to public transportation makes it easier for someone in the "responsible" state to step out of the bar onto a bus and get safely home. In Oklahoma, finding public transportation is more difficult and more costly, often requiring an expensive cab ride rather than a bus fare.

This is not to suggest that a less densely populated area or lack of public transportation excuse drinking and driving, nor do they mitigate responsibility. Rather, the statistics presented in the Buzzfeed article may indicate less about responsible drinking than about other factors which may improve traffic safety.

In Oklahoma, a first offense of DUI is generally a misdemeanor when no accident occurs. However, second and subsequent offenses are felony offenses. Whether an individual is charged with a misdemeanor or felony, he or she faces driver's license suspension, fines, jail or prison, and other associated criminal and administrative penalties. Learn more or find an attorney on the Oklahoma Legal Group website.



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