Buzz Kill: DUIs are Expensive Mistakes

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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UPDATED: Feb 28, 2020

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Drinking and driving can lead to steep fines, jail time, and a loss of driving privileges. While staying sober behind the wheel seems like a simple concept, drinking and driving is especially prevalent among young, college-aged drivers. These drivers are involved in thousands of fatal accidents each year.

Research shows that young adult drivers are the most likely to drink and drive, and they are also the most likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. In response to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 23% of drivers in this age group admitted to drinking and driving, the highest percentage of any other age bracket. Young adult drivers were also involved in 34% of all fatal accidents involving alcohol in 2010 — also the highest of any other age group — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Costs of Drunk Driving

The cost of human life is the greatest loss incurred by those who drive under the influence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that around one-third of fatal car collisions involve a drunk driver. To put that in perspective, if no one drove under the influence of alcohol, over 10,000 lives could potentially be saved each year.

Even if a drunk driver is lucky enough to avoid a collision, injury, or death, he or she may still be caught in the act, which will lead to penalties, fees, and higher insurance premiums. The punishments for drunk driving may vary across state lines, but regardless of the location, they are long-lasting and costly.

Dealing with a DUI is a financially draining and time consuming process. Once a person has been served with a citation for driving under the influence (DUI), he or she faces fines, court costs, and attorney fees. Some DUI charges require community service or alcohol education as a component of the punishment. And the total cost of a DUI, from the fines to the license reinstatement fee, can get as high as $45,435, according to the state of California.

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How a DUI Affects Insurance Premiums

Fines and fees aren’t the only penalties for drunk driving. In fact, the most expensive result of a DUI citation is the increase in insurance premiums that will result from the citation. Drivers who have been caught driving under the influence are considered high insurance risks, and as a result, insurance companies will charge them even more for coverage. The state of California estimates that annual car insurance can increase as high as $40,000 over a 13-year period, whereas Alaska estimates that insurance increases will cost $10,000 over a five-year period of time. The exact cost of the higher insurance premium and the length of time during which that higher premium will be under effect will vary by the company and the state; however, all insurance companies will raise the cost for drivers who have been served with DUIs. Many companies will also drop drivers for multiple DUI offenses.

High Risk Means More Restrictions

Additionally, drivers caught driving while impaired by alcohol may also be required to fill out an SR-22 form, which is a form that proves that they have the minimum liability insurance, before they can reinstate their licenses. States require the form to ensure that drivers who are considered too high risk to insure due to their DUI history do not get behind the wheel without adequate coverage. Those who cannot obtain coverage will have to prove that they have enough money to cover liability costs in the event of a collision. Otherwise, they will not be legally permitted to drive. The SR-22 form may be required for up to five years, depending on state law.

As a result of all of the complications caused by driving while impaired, the safest and cheapest route is to refrain from getting behind the wheel after you have been drinking. Otherwise, the decision to drive can cost you, your passengers, and the other drivers on the road more than just a few extra bucks.

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