DUIs and Car Insurance
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can harm another driver, yourself, or innocent passengers/bystanders, and it doesn't stop there. Committing a DUI/DWI will also cause harm to your finances in both the short and long term.
In the short term, a conviction for driving under the influence can leave you with:
- Driver's license suspension.
- Reinstatement fees.
- Jail time.
In the long term, a DUI conviction can severely impact your car insurance premium and require that you file future proof of financial responsibility.
The Costs of a DUI/DWI
There are obvious risks to getting behind the wheel drunk. A driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level over 0.15% is more likely to die in a single-vehicle crash than someone who has not been drinking, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Death is the ultimate cost of drunk driving, but there is more at stake.
- Fines range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.
- A conviction can lead to additional fees that add up to about 3 times the initial fine.
- Many states require offenders to take classes or even complete an alcohol/drug treatment program at their own expense.
- DUIs often result in license suspension, reinstatement fees, and SR-22 or FR-44 filing requirements.
- See "Filing Forms After the DUI" below.
- Depending on the offense, you may end up with a jail sentence and/or probation.
- Offenders are responsible for all court costs.
- In some cases, the offender will be required to install an ignition interlock device in his car.
- The cost of a DUI attorney can go into the thousands of dollars.
These are just some of the initial expenses of getting a DUI. A drunken driving charge affects your insurance premium for years, too.
Insurance companies look closely at an applicant's driving record when assessing the risk they take on by insuring the driver. You can expect to pay a higher premium because you are seen as a "high risk" driver.
Some companies refuse to cover drivers with a DUI or DWI on their record.
NOTE: If you are denied car insurance, you may be able to get insurance with your state's automobile insurance plan at a much higher cost.
Proof of Financial Responsibility
The cost of a DUI doesn't end once you pay the fines and fees. If your license was suspended, you'll typically be expected to prove you are financially responsible before you can drive again. This proof can come in the form of an SR-22 or FR-44.
An SR-22 form is often referred to as "SR-22 insurance;" however, it is not insurance but rather aguarantee from your car insurance company that you'll hold the minimum insurance for a predetermined period of time (usually 3 years).
The court or state will notify you if you need to file an SR-22. You will need to have a licensed auto insurance company file it on your behalf.
Having an SR-22 on your record makes it difficult to get insurance without prepaying the policy in full.
An alternative to an SR-22 is an FR-44, which goes further than the SR-22 by requiring drivers to carry liability coverage higher than the state's minimum coverage requirements.
Your state's requirements will determine whether you are required to hold an SR-22 or FR-44.
Because an FR-44 requires increased limits, it means a much more expensive policy for the driver.
Maintaining a Clean Driving Record
The good news is that all costs associated with DUIs and DWIs are preventable.
If the risk of an accident isn't enough to keep you from getting behind the wheel after partying, consider other ways you will pay for a DUI, including a major increase in the cost of your car insurance.
Remember, a clean driving record is the key to cheap car insurance. If you've had a DUI in the past, drive safely and do your best to remain accident-free. This will go a long way toward lowering your premium.
A long period of safe driving can significantly help counterbalance the cost of a DUI to your car insurance premium.