Wisconsin leads the nation in people who admit to drinking and driving. The rest of the top five in this particular list of shame are North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. Utah has the least problem with this, followed by a number of Southern states. One reason, according to this AP article is religion:
Eric Goplerud, research professor at George Washington University Medical Center, said cultural and demographic issues probably have a role in the higher rates of driving under the influence in certain states. He said that religious affiliations in the Southeast often strongly discourage drinking, but that doesn’t occur so much in the upper Midwest.
What is mercifully unspecified is what the religion of those Northern states is. According to Adherents.com, the five states with the highest proportion of Lutherans are THOSE very states (in this order: North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska).
And it is true, in something that surprised me when I became one (and later came to appreciate), that Lutherans–for all of their theological, social, and moral conservatism– have NO problem with drinking alcohol. (At least not in the LCMS, though I’m aware there are more pietistic Lutherans that do.) Yes, drunkenness and alcoholism are considered wrong, as is alcoholism, but Lutheranism posits not the slightest guilt or stigma about social drinking. Indeed, beer is often served at church dinners. (I have often wondered why Lutherans don’t promote THAT in their church growth efforts.) And yet, I have not witnessed in my congregations any major problems with this, no more than in my earlier anti-alcohol liberal and evangelical congregations down in Oklahoma. When I was growing up, we actually were in a “dry” county, and yet drunkenness was rampant.
Drinking and driving, of course, is wrong, but there is another part of the story (in addition to questions about how the survey defined the transgression–it may be that citizens in these states are, like good Lutherans, more open to confessing their faults than driving while actually impaired). The fact is, Wisconsin has FEWER TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS than the average. (I don’t have statistics for the other top four.) See this and follow the links.
What are we to make of all of this?