Having any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system and driving a vehicle is considered driving under the influence. Driving while under the influence can cause significant harm not only yourself but all of the others in your driving environment. Conviction of a DUI/DWI will also hurt your finances in both the short and long term.
In the short term, a guilty verdict for driving under the influence can result in fines, fees covering the suspension and reinstatement of your license as well as the possibility of jail time. In the long run, a DUI conviction will have a significant bearing on your auto insurance premium and you will be required to file future proof of financial accountability.
The Costs of a DUI/DWI
Climbing behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk leads to a much higher rate of accident, injury, and fatality compared to driving sober. A report issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimated that in 2010 over 7,000 deaths could have been prevented if drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher could have been kept off the road.
Death is the highest cost of drunk driving. However, there is still more at risk.
- Fines range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.
- A majority of states require offenders to take classes or complete an alcohol/drug treatment program at their own expense.
- Frequent outcomes of DUIs include suspended licenses, license reinstatement fees, and SR-22 or FR-44 filing requirements.
- Depending on the offense, it’s possible you may end up with a jail sentence and/or probation.
- Offenders are liable for all court costs.
- Court ordered installation of an ignition interlock device.
- Services of a DUI attorney can range into the thousands of dollars.
These are just some of the initial costs of getting a DUI. Your insurance rates will be affected for years by a drunken driving charge. Insurance companies inspect an applicant's driving record carefully when evaluating the risk they take on by insuring a driver. You can anticipate paying a higher rate because a person convicted of a DUI is regarded as a "high risk" driver. Some auto insurance companies will simply refuse to cover drivers if they have a DUI or DWI on their record.
NOTE: If you are denied auto insurance, you may be able to get insurance with your state's automobile insurance plan, but the cost will be much higher.
Proof of Financial Responsibility
Paying any fines and fees is not the end to the cost of a DUI. If your license was suspended, you'll usually be required to prove you are financially responsible before the state allows you to drive again. This verification can come in the form of an SR-22 or FR-44.
An SR-22 certificate (also known as "SR-22 insurance") is not technically insurance but rather a guarantee from your auto insurance company that you will maintain the minimum insurance required for a predetermined period (typically three years). The court or state will notify you if you are required to file an SR-22. You must have a licensed auto insurance company file it on your behalf.
Having an SR-22 on your record makes it much more challenging to get insurance without having to prepay the policy in full.
An alternative to an SR-22 is an FR-44, which goes beyond the SR-22 requirement by forcing drivers to carry liability coverage higher than the state's minimum coverage requirements. Your state’s requirements will govern whether you are required to hold an SR-22 or FR-44. Since an FR-44 requires higher limits of liability, it is much more expensive than a standard policy.
Keeping Your Record Clean
The good news is that all the expenses connected with DUIs and DWIs are preventable. Keeping your record clean is the easiest way to guarantee yourself low insurance premiums. If you have had a DUI in the past, continue to drive safely and doing you best to stay accident-free. Building a history of safe driving following your DUI driving will significantly lower your rates and assist in counterbalancing the cost of a DUI on your insurance premium.