Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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If cars were made to keep drunks from operating them, would scenes like this become uncommon?
If cars were made to keep drunks from operating them, would scenes like this become uncommon? (image by car-accidents.com)

Of all the things one can do behind the wheel of a car, driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the worst. We maintain that if you’re drinking, you shouldn’t be driving.

Driving under the influence was responsible for almost one-third of fatal crashes in the United States in 2010, according to the National Highway Trafic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These crashes cost not only the loss of life, but they also account for more than $114 billion in purely economic losses. Insurance rates went up for these drivers and others around them involved in the accidents. For high-risk drivers convicted of a DUI, extra insurance requirements could affect their driving record and insurance costs for years.

While those are two very good reasons not to drive under the influence of alcohol, they’re far from the only ones. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you could be facing many hardships, despite staying alive. Loss of your drivers license, huge fines, court and attorney costs, impound fees, time in jail and even not being able to purchase car insurance can be the best of outcomes that await you.

Even if you are able to keep your license and still drive, you might be forced to pay much higher rates for simple liability insurance. At minimum, you can expect an increase of at least 20 percent to 40 percent on the cost of your auto premiums. Nothing good comes from drunk driving.

Of course, the scariest outcomes of drunk driving involve the death of the driver or others around them. This could lead to jail time and lawsuits from victims or their families.

What Constitutes Drunk Driving?

From a legal standpoint, the exact blood alcohol content can vary by state. Some states allow officers to impound your car and otherwise penalize you even if you’re driving under the legal limit. Unfortunately, BAC doesn’t always tell you how the individual is affected.

According to the NHTSA, the risk doesn’t end with the debate over BAC and how it affects driving. Impaired drivers also tend to have other high-risk behaviors. Drivers with BACs of .08 or higher in fatal crashes are 8 times more likely to have previous DWI convictions than other drivers. In 2006, there was a DUI arrest for one out of every 138 licensed drivers in the United States.

An ad hoc grouping of car insurance companies, alcohol distributors, the NHTSA and safety advocates is suggesting that lawmakers should fund research and legislation that they claim could stop driving under the influence before it happens.

“Drunk driving continues to be a national tragedy that needlessly claims the lives of thousands of people on our highways each year,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “We need to put an end to it.”

The system, called “Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety” (DADSS), is bring jointly developed by the NHTSA and researchers in the automotive industry. The goal of the program is to develop and deploy technology that would be offered as optional or standard equipment in all new cars to gauge a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

While these types of ignition interlocks have been required by court order for DUI offenders for more than 20 years, the ultimate goal of DADSS is to include these kinds of devices in every new car sold in the United States. In 2010, 212,000 drivers were required to have interlock devices installed in their car, and fourteen states have now passed laws that require interlocks for all DUI offenders, even first time offenders. Putting them in every car would stop risky driving even for young drivers who haven’t been previously convicted.

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Are Alcohol Interlock Devices Effective at Preventing Drunk Driving?

Traditional alcohol interlock devices are easily fooled by a drunk driver. A drunk driver may simply have a passenger breathe into the device to allow the car to be started. DADSS interlocks wouldn’t be quite as easy to fool. These devices would measure a driver’s BAC through sensors that are included on a steering wheel, the ignition button, or that simply monitor a driver’s breath or eye movements to identify if they’ve had too much to drink. Of course, there’s some debate as to what else might be confused with drunk driving by the machinery. But the effects of drowsy driving and other inhibitions is often the same. A drowsy driver may not have to submit special forms for cheap car insurance after an accident, but they could be just as impaired.

According to the NHTSA, the results of DADSS research thus far has been encouraging, but actual deployment of the technologies would not come for another decade, at the earliest. They say that for DADSS to be successful, the technology will need to be non-invasive to the user; extremely accurate, precise, repeatable, reliable, durable and relatively inexpensive.

If you maintain a clean driving record and avoid driving under the influence, you can avoid accidents and avoid a rate increase. Of course, finding and maintaining the best auto insurance rates is often more complicated. You can compare policies by entering your zip code and answering a few questions in our calculator. Insurance agents can also help you maximize your discounts.