FARGO — North Dakota has landed near the top of yet another national rankings list, but this time there’s no cause to raise a toast.
The state ranks No. 2 among the 10 worst states for DUI problems, according to BackgroundCheck.org, an organization that describes itself as being devoted to public safety, online privacy, home security and open government.
To come up with its list, BackgroundCheck.org used data from a variety of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Transportation, and local and state data.
The organization’s list shows the top states with DUI problems are: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, Kentucky and Maine.
Minnesota ranked 37th.
“The fact that over 10,000 people a year die from DUI related accidents is a travesty,” Trent Wilson, co-author of the research, said in a release. He said he hopes the research will “open some eyes and make people think twice before drinking and driving.”
North Dakota has a DUI death rate of 6.6 people per 100,000 residents, while Minnesota’s DUI death rate is about 2.1 people per 100,000 residents, according to BackgroundCheck.org.
North Dakota has a DUI arrest rate of about 3 per 100,000 residents, according to the research, which found Minnesota’s DUI arrest rate to be about 2 per 100,000 residents.
Captain Bryan Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said he hadn’t seen the organization’s statistics, so he couldn’t speak to them directly.
But he said traffic fatality numbers have been falling in North Dakota for about the past five years, with some of that due to the slowdown in the energy sector and fewer vehicle miles being driven.
On the other hand, he said the percentage of fatal crashes tied to alcohol seems to remain constant at around 45 percent.
“It’s very consistent from year to year,” Niewind said, adding the issue may be partly a social one, as alcohol is a big part of the region’s cultural fabric.
“We’re not telling people you can’t go out and drink and have a good time,” he said. “It’s just that when you do that, you need to make the proper decisions and plan ahead of time to have a ride. Or, if you’re in an area where you can stay, just stay there until you sober up so you can drive safely home.”
He said while many people in North Dakota probably know someone who has died in a crash, that awareness doesn’t always translate to behavioral changes.
“I just don’t think people think it’s going to happen to them,” Niewind said. “The one thing about driving under the influence, it’s a choice.”