Financial website WalletHub conducted a study about the strictest and most lenient states on driving while intoxicated (DWI) or more commonly known as driving under the influence (DUI), which have caused of about 31 percent of motor vehicle deaths on the country's highways and roads in 2012 based on the records of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition to the human fatalities, the government stated that drunk driving costs Americans in all 50 states and D.C. an estimated amount of $60 billion yearly in economic losses.

WalletHub analyzed the strictness of law enforcement on DUI in each state using 15 key metrics that include minimum jail sentences for first and second offense, if DUI is considered automatic felony, minimum fines for first and second offenders, and a provision for protection against child endangerment. For prevention, the researchers scored the states based on administrative license suspension, ignition interlock device requirements, vehicle impound after arrest, and existence of sobriety checkpoints.

Arizona came out as the strictest among all states according to the results WalletHub posted. It implements the longest minimum jail time of 10 days and $250 fine for first DUI offenders, mandatory alcohol assessment, and automatic vehicle impound. West Virginia, which ranked fourth in the list, has the longest minimum jail sentence of 180 days for second-time violators. The second-place Alaska issued the largest fines to DUI offenders, $1,500 for first offense and $3,000 for second offense. The states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have the longest ignition interlock mandatory period of 24 months while Georgia implements a 12-month administrative license suspension. The other strictest states include Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia, Delaware, Georgia and Washington.

WalletHub scored South Dakota the most lenient out of all 50 states, having no minimum sentence for both first and second DUI offenses. The state also offered no vehicle impound, no mandatory ignition interlock device required and zero administrative license suspension. Aside from South Dakota, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New York, Missouri, and Florida are the other states that have no minimum sentence for both first and second-time DUI offenders. The other lenient states in the list included Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Vermont and Ohio.

Alcohol-impaired driving accidents have caused the deaths of 10,076 people, which are almost 33 percent of the total vehicle-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2013, based on the records of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The only good news is that the mortality rate had declined by 52 percent from 1982 to 2013 due to harsher penalties and changing social behavior towards driving and drinking, according to WalletHub.

The different treatments from all the states of the same crime are the challenges best left to the government.

Photo: Steven Damron | Flickr

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