Dry Counties Have Higher DWI Fatality Rates


I.   Arkansas

II.  Kentucky

III. Texas

IV.  Conclusions

V.   Resources


Dry counties have higher DWI or DUI fatality rates than wet counties. That is, alcohol prohibition or dry counties have higher rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths than do wet counties. Here are the results from three states.

There are many examples. Here are three.

I. Arkansas

Dry counties have higher DWIA study of all counties in Arkansas found dry counties to have higher alcohol-related fatalities than wet counties. This was true throughout the state. Wet and dry counties are often adjacent. Thus, alcohol beverage sales outlets are often located immediately across county or even state lines.

One newspaper reported on a dry Arkansas county  bordering a wet Missouri county. It counted license plates on a Friday evening at a large Missouri liquor store. In one hour, the reporter counted 182 Arkansas plates. However, there were 16 Missouri plates during that time period.  Another newspaper reported that in central Arkansas the problem is especially severe. When a county is dry there, it means not only a drive across the county line. It often means driving across several county lines to reach a wet county.

II. Kentucky

Dry counties have higher DWIThe finding that Arkansas’ dry counties have a higher proportion of alcohol-related traffic crashes is consistent with research elsewhere. For example, researchers  studied about 39,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents in Kentucky. They found that residents of dry counties are more likely to be in such crashes.

III. Texas

Dry counties have higher DWITexas has more alcohol-related traffic accidents than any other state. Of course, it has more people driving more miles than almost any other state.

At the same time, California has a larger population driving more miles of driving than any other state. Yet it has fewer alcohol-related crashes than Texas.

With its larger population, California should have more alcohol-related accidents than Texas. However, there’s one very important difference between the two states. Texas has a large number of dry (prohibition) counties whereas California has none.

Researchers studied alcohol-related traffic deaths in Texas over a time of five years. Completely dry counties had over three and one-half times the number of deaths per capita than completely wet counties. Dry counties averaged 6.8 alcohol-related traffic deaths per 10,000 people, whereas wet counties had 1.9 deaths per 10,000 people. This, according to data from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Texas receives extra federal funding to permit it to clamp down on drunk drivers. Also, it’s greatly increasing punishments in an effort to reduce DWI/DUI.

Perhaps it should also eliminate one of the causes of drunk driving. That is, dry counties.

IV. Conclusions

There are reasons why dry counties have higher DWI deaths. Some researchers note that residents of wet counties most likely have shorter distances to travel between home and drinking establishments. Relatedly, others note that in dry counties people drive farther under the influence of alcohol. This, of course, increases their exposure to crashes.

Also, people are likely to drink more when alcohol, is hard to get.

It would appear that however well-intentioned, county alcohol prohibition does not prevent residents from consuming alcoholic beverages. However, it contributes to alcohol-related traffic deaths. In addition, it deprives residents of tax revenues lost to wet counties.

V. Resources

These are are a few of the studies proving that dry counties have higher DWI deaths.

Combs, H. The wet-dry issue in Arkansas. Penn Geog, 2015, 43(2), 66-94. 

Gary, S., et al. Consideration of driver home county prohibition and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2003, 35(5), 641-648.

Schulte, G., et al. Consideration of driver home county prohibition and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. Acc Analy Prev, 1993, 35(5), 641-648. 

Winn, R. and Giacopassi, D. Effects of county-level alcohol prohibition on motor vehicle accidents. Soc Sci Q, 1993, 74, 783-792.

Now you know that dry counties have higher DWI or DUI fatality rates than wet counties.