"It's not so much a case that we went down" in fatalities, said Steven Flint, a statistician with the DWI Resource Center and the former chief of the state's Traffic Safety Bureau.
"It's that other states have had the misfortune of going up."
Crash figures are provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
, and per capita rates are determined by the 2000 U.S. census, Flint
By comparison, 2002's safest state was New York with 2.1 deaths per 100,000. Flint
said states like New York, 49th-ranked New Jersey and 48th-ranked Massachusetts avoid alcohol-related deaths because of their dense urban areas and the extensive use of public transportation such as subways and taxis.
But even out West where long stretches of highway and a lack of urban centers exist, New Mexico still far surpasses its neighbors in deadly drunken driving. "You'd be more than three times as likely to lose someone to DWI in New Mexico than you would driving through Utah," Flint said.