Why in the world would Wyoming, known for its iconic national parks and breathtaking landscape, be ranked first on a list of states with the worst drunk driving problem?
The reasons, it seems, are complex, but they have a good deal to do with cultural and social norms, and the early age young people begin drinking there. One also can’t ignore the state’s small, often-isolated population. Covered by mountain ranges and prairie lands, Wyoming has a population of about 585,500.
According to data analyzed by backgroundchecks.org and released in March 2017, the state tops the list of those with DUI problems. Wyoming’s DUI death rate (per 100,000) was 9.56, and it marked 3,157 DUI arrests. The state keeps company on the overall list with North Dakota, ranked second; South Dakota, ranked third; and Montana, ranked fourth.
“To create a ranking of states, we took a combination of deaths directly attributable to DUIs, DUI arrests per 100,000 people, and drinking too much before driving, as reported by drivers themselves,” backgroundchecks.org said in its release of the data. “We then created a weighted formula.”
Take Note: If you have lost your license and need to work on drivers license restoration, browse through the attorney directories on Drunkdrivingattorneys.com or DriversLicenseRestorers.com. Pick an attorney experienced and knowledgeable in the drivers license appeal (restoration) process in your state. If you need to get treatment to help make a case for restoring your license, there are treatment center directories on both sites. If you need information about points on your driving record, check your state department of motor vehicles. Helping yourself is always the first step in having your DUI attorney help you.
Wyoming’s drunk driving problem is not new, and as far back as a decade ago people were discussing the root causes of the state’s alcohol crisis.
In 2016 Laura Schmid-Pizzato, manager of recovery services at the Southwest Counseling Service in Wyoming’s Sweetwater County, was quoted in an article as saying: “We have very much of a belief you can drink and drive as long as you don’t hurt anybody, that open containers are OK. We’ve got a very different belief about alcohol use in our state than in other states, and that tends to lead to higher rates of underage drinking.”
She was reacting to a federal report on alcohol and drug abuse by geographic regions within states. Wyoming’s south-central region, specifically Albany and Carbon counties, at the time had the highest rate in the nation of past-year alcohol dependence or abuse. Binge drinking and early-age alcohol use were among the reasons cited.
What’s significant about this particular region of Wyoming? For one thing it includes Laramie, located in Albany County and home to the University of Wyoming. Drunk driving in a college town comes as no surprise, but the university has been especially impacted by the horrors of drunk driving.
In 2001, a University of Wyoming student who was legally drunk at the time ran his pick-up truck into a vehicle carrying eight university cross-country team members. All of the runners were killed; the student driving the truck survived.
On the 10-year anniversary of the students’ deaths Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving. The council meets quarterly to, among other things, review recent crash statistics and receive updates on initiatives.
Still, Wyoming continues to have huge challenges, as witnessed by its place on the backgroundchecks.org list. And, people continue to die in the state as a result of drunk driving.
As recent as June 30 the state saw a fatal head-on collision resulting from drunk driving. The driver of the vehicle that caused the accident failed a field sobriety test, according to a Jackson Hole News&Guide story. There is, it seems, much work still to be done.
“The fact that over 10,000 people a year die from DUI-related accidents is a travesty,” Trent Wilson, co-author of the backgroundchecks.org research, was quoted as saying. “We hope this research will open some eyes and make people think twice before drinking and driving.”