According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving accidents take place an average of once every forty minutes. Millions of drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs every year, and these drivers account for over 32 percent of all fatalities on the road. If you have an accident as a result of driving drunk, the odds are good that you'll not only be arrested but your insurance rates are sure to suffer significantly for many years afterward.
The Definition of Drunk Driving Accidents
If you've gone out to a gathering - and you've had some alcohol while you are there - there is a chance that you could be over the legal blood alcohol limit. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 percent means that you're legally drunk, and if you end up in an accident with such a BAC then the accident will be considered a drunk driving accident by police on the scene.
If you are under the legal drinking age of 21 and you decide to have a few drinks at a party and then drive home, your risk is even higher. Most states employ "zero tolerance laws" for anyone under 21 who is caught driving drunk. What makes this worse for anyone under 21 is that you don't have to technically be "drunk" for the police to consider you "under the influence." If your BAC is at or over 0.02 percent, and you are in an accident or just stopped for speeding, you could be arrested for drunk driving. To put this into perspective, if you weigh under 180 pounds and you drink a single 12 oz beer, your blood alcohol level could range anywhere from 0.03 to 0.05 percent.
This means that if you're under 21 and you drink a single beer and decide to drive, you could place your entire future as a driver at risk. For anyone, of any age, who decides to drink and then drive, all of the consequences listed below will apply to you.
Insurance Consequences of Drunk Driving
There are very few traffic infractions that can increase your car insurance costs as much as drunk driving will. In fact, if your rate only goes up you should consider yourself lucky. Many insurance companies will automatically cancel or refuse to renew a policy if you have a DUI on your driving record. Both factors - a DUI on your record and a cancelled policy - will both make it extremely difficult to find car insurance that you can afford.
In some states you will be required to obtain a form called an SR-22 from your insurance company, which proves to the state that you do have at least liability insurance coverage. In those states, when you call your insurance company to obtain the form they will be alerted that you received a DUI conviction. In states where the SR-22 isn't required, it's quite possible that the insurance company may never even learn about the conviction. However, for those that do, you could face insurance rate increases up to three times what you're currently paying, especially if you were a preferred customer before.
According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the value of this increase can range from about $4000 to $7000 a year, making it a very expensive mistake. Also, depending on the laws in your state, a conviction of driving under the influence may influence your insurance rates for at least three years from the first time you're convicted. If you are ever arrested for DUI again, you can be sure that your rates will stay higher for much longer.
Legal Consequences of Drunk Driving
When you are stopped for drunk driving, you're arrested on the spot. This means that you'll need to pay to have your car towed and you'll have to pay for bail, court fees and fines, a lawyer and also for any court sanctioned requirements as part of your sentencing such as any electronic monitoring or for your DUI education and treatment. Don't forget that you could potentially end up sitting in a jail cell for at least 30 days. Additionally, if you ever hurt someone in an accident while you're drunk the jail sentence may be harsh.
In addition to jail time, fees and other legal costs, once you make it through the system and you're trying to get back on your feet you'll soon discover that having a criminal record makes many things that you took for granted before very difficult. Some examples include finding an apartment or finding a new job. Obviously, either getting arrested while drunk or getting into an accident while drunk can have an enormous negative effect on the rest of your life.
Sometimes it is far too easy to convince yourself that just having a couple of drinks won't get you too drunk to drive. The truth is there are many variables related to weight, age, gender and metabolism, so it is difficult to know how many drinks it will take to put you over the legal limit. In fact, the real issue isn't really the danger involved in getting caught and arrested, but the possibility that by driving with even slightly impaired reflexes you could be placing innocent people at risk. Far too many people needlessly die every year from drunk driving, and it only takes a moment of reflection to make the moral and responsible decision to either refuse that drink, or hand over your car keys and enjoy the party.