Chart of the Day: Drunk Driving Crashes 2003 – 2013

From a story in the Minnesota Daily, here’s a chart showing impaired driving (i.e. drunk or other drugs) crashes in Minnesota over the last decade.

drunk driving MN

The article quotes a researcher who claims that drunk driving “isn’t a driving problem, it’s a drinking problem,” and suggests focusing on the binge drinking treatment side of the picture. Here’s the relevant quote:

In a joint study between the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and Boston University released earlier this month, researchers discovered that states that have alcohol policies for drivers coupled with laws aimed at preventing binge drinking also have fewer drunken drivers.
Researchers say the results of the study should motivate states to adopt harsher drinking and driving laws.
Some states are more restrictive on drunken driving than they are on binge drinking, but the better way to reduce drunken driving is through tougher policies addressing binge drinking, said Toben Nelson, the study’s co-author and a University community health associate professor.
Certainly a problem with a lot of dynamics, including auto-dependent communities. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

16 Responses to Chart of the Day: Drunk Driving Crashes 2003 – 2013

  1. Mike Sonn
    Mike Sonn August 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    If anything is a crash and not an accident, it is an incident that involves alcohol.

    • Wayne August 5, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      Consequently the only way to get in trouble for killing a pedestrian or cyclist with your car is to be drunk when you do it.

  2. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary August 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    The idea that this is a “drinking problem, not a driving problem” says implicitly that you should be able to have a few and still drive, something I don’t think we should promote.

    In Norway, the blood alcohol limit is 0.02% — 1/4 Minnesota’s limit. When visiting there, it was not uncommon to hear someone decline even a single glass of wine at dinner, because they had to drive somewhere in a couple of hours.

    People still drink plenty in Norway. Yet drinking and driving — even the casual “just a few” drinks tolerance we have — is not accepted at all there. It is simply accepted that if you’re going to the bar, going to a dinner party, etc, that you have a plan to get home that doesn’t involve driving yourself.

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn August 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

      Our liquor licenses come complete with parking minimums.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary August 5, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

        +1. Although given our current 0.08% lifestyles, it is helpful to have the option to leave a car at the bar and get another ride home — something not possible if you parked in a metered or time-limited spot.

        If we went down to a more zero-tolerance approach, you’re right, we shouldn’t need to require any spots.

        • Wayne August 5, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

          We could maybe actually run more transit all night to provide a decent alternative to driving because you know the last bus is well before bar close.

          I mean that doesn’t help the alcoholics in the boonies, but it’s a start.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke August 5, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

      here’s a bonus chart showing Alcohol consumption per capita across many different countries. the US is slightly above average, just above Canada (hard to believe), but a fair bit below UK, Russia, German, Australia. (France is a bit wobbly.)

  3. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini August 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    FYI, here is the study (not linked in the original MN Daily post, either):

    Yeah, I’m very confused by that strong wording of DD being a drinking and not driving problem. I found this part in the discussion to be most relevant:

    “Furthermore, although the likelihood of impaired driving is substantially higher among binge drinkers compared to those who reported no binge drinking, we found that the
    driving-oriented policy environment moderates such relationships (e.g., where stronger driving policies reduced the likelihood of driving under the influence of alcohol
    even among those who reported binge drinking). This finding is consistent with our expectation. For instance, in states where sobriety checkpoints are conducted, the
    awareness of possible apprehension and penalty might reduce the likelihood of binge drinkers to drive a motor vehicle after impairment”

    I would be interested in seeing a broader cross-section of data including other countries with heavy drinking rates (with driving rates similar to ours, like Germany, UK, etc). It would also be nice to see this data teased out by how far one typically drinks from home, their homes’ sprawl index or WalkScore, etc. We may still find that enforcement & anti-binge drinking policies/taxes are the most cost-effective in the short run in reducing drunk driving, but it would be nice to know how built environment affects it.

    • Aaron Berger August 5, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      This seems like a comparison that could be done within a country much more easily than between countries. There are almost certainly additional socioeconomic variables that influence both alcohol consumption and land use preferences, and it seems unlikely to me that the same relationship would hold true in countries that have very different land use preferences than the US. Instead of comparing areas of similar land use with differing populations, you would probably need to identify similar groups of people in diverse land use settings to maintain exchangeability of the populations across different “treatments.”

  4. jeffk August 5, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    It’s not a drinking problem, it’s a car-based land use problem. We’ll blame car accidents on anything but cars to avoid dealing with that reality. Many societies have existed without a car-only transportation system, but none that I’m aware of, or very few anyways, have existed where nobody ever seeks to alter their mental state. So I’m willing to accept occasional drunkenness as a fact of human reality well before I’m willing to accept the suburban experiment without question.

    And then it gets framed as a question of enforcement. We could hang every drunk driver and texter and cars would still kill thousands a year, because they’re inherently dangerous. If you can walk to your local pub, we don’t have a problem.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele August 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm #


      • Wayne August 5, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

        Agreed, definitely this. It’s what I really came in here to say, but he said it better.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson August 5, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      Drunk walking…
      Drunk bus and train riding…
      Drunk biking…

      Of course it is a driving issue, all of the other ways of getting around while under the influence aren’t a menace to society. The land use we made that forces driving has made a mockery of enforcement of drunk driving. Remove a drivers license and what we get are drivers who drive without licenses and insurance because we made a metropolis we need to drive around.

  5. UrbanDoofus August 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    I understand that transit is spotty in some areas, and as the night goes along. However, with the expansion of ride sharing to the Twin Cities, it’s hard to justify “just a few” and then hopping in a car over the limit.

    • Wayne August 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      Oh you mean unlicensed livery services with rapists and burglars driving for them? Yeah, I’ll pass on those. I don’t see why anyone would somehow be more likely to grab an uber instead of driving sloshed but somehow a cab was out of the question before.

      • UrbanDoofus August 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

        I’m not going to argue over the validity of uber and lyft. That’s been argued to death.

        However, it is far easier to hail one of them than a traditional licensed taxi service. It’s two clicks on your phone and you can watch it in real time. If you’re going to say that’s not easier than hailing, tracking, and paying a cab company, well I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Let’s be honest here.

Note on Comments welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on!