North Dakota's drunk drivers have landed the state on a list for worst drivers, though numbers from a state agency show alcohol-related deaths due to vehicle crashes are on the decline.
The Peace Garden State took fourth on a list of worst drivers by state recently published by CarInsuranceComparison.com. That's up from seventh place last year. North Dakota ranked No. 10 in 2014.
North Dakota ranked lower than Texas and Louisiana, as well as third-place South Carolina. Following North Dakota are Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, Alabama, Arizona and Montana.
The website used several factors to determine its rankings, including fatality rates, failure to obey traffic laws, drunk driving, speeding and careless driving.
North Dakota's best score was in careless driving, where it placed 20th, but the state is the worst for drunk driving, according to the study.
The website attributes its drunk driving statistics to 2014 data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, stating 66 deaths were caused by drunk driving in that year.
An annual report from the North Dakota Department of Transportation places that figure at 54, a decrease from the 2014 number of 63.
Total vehicle deaths related to alcohol have been on the decline since 2012 when the death toll hit 87, according to the DOT.
Percentages of alcohol deaths compared with total vehicle fatalities also have seen a decline. Fatal crashes have declined from 53 in 2014 to 48 last year, according to the DOT. That places the fatal crash rate involving alcohol compared to total fatal crashes at 43 percent, below the 10-year average of 47 percent.
Drunk driving arrests to date also have dropped off, from 2,626 last year to 1,086 this year.
Other lists have placed North Dakota on the opposite spectrum for a ranking of drivers by skills, including SmartAsset, which ranked the state fifth for best drivers, according to an August report in Time magazine.
Still, the author of CarInsuranceComparison.com's article says drunk driving is "a serious problem that drivers in the state need to recognize and address."
"The fact that North Dakota placed sixth in speeding only adds fuel to the fire," the article said. "Individuals who are drinking and driving over the speed limit are far more likely to cause fatal accidents than those who are following the law."
The website decided to use the NHTSA's numbers because it "captures standardized data across the entire nation, said Josh Barnes, who is the media contact for the website's article.
Socially, drunk driving has become less acceptable, as it can affect employment as well as an offender's driving record, North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Tim Coughlin said Wednesday. The state has worked to reduce drunk driving, including increasing law enforcement and educating the public, he added.
However, the Highway Patrol is careful to "celebrate" any decline in alcohol-related crash, adding it is a problem the agency takes seriously, he said.
"The drunk driving issue is our No. 1 concern," he said. "We have the saying in our agency that one drunk driving fatality is one too many."
Minnesota has the best drivers in the country, according to the website, with its best score for careless driving (51st) and its worst score for speeding (23rd).
The District of Columbia is included in the website's list.