Cheap Car Insurance and Drunk Driving Don’t Mix

As another New Year’s Eve approaches, reflect on some data before you head for a party or host one.  You might also want to think about a couple of mundane items, including your car insurance and the impact a drunk driving conviction has on cheap car insurance (not good news). But we’ll get back to that right after the sobering stats.

  • There were 37,261 alcohol-impaired fatalities in the U.S. in 2008, 32% of the total U.S. traffic fatalities for that year.
  • According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, about a third of U.S. drivers killed in car crashes in 2009 had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. This despite the fact that all 50 U.S. states have laws against driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI), and since 2002 all states have considered drivers to be alcohol impaired when their BAC reaches 0.08.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data show that U.S. drunk driving crashes (and deaths) spike during the December holidays, jumping from an average of 36 alcohol-impaired fatalities per day to 45 per day during the Christmas holiday and a whopping 54 per day on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
  • NHTSA says 41% of all traffic fatalities during the New Year’s holidays involved drunk drivers or intoxicated motorcycle riders, compared to 31% during the year as a whole.
  • The National Center for Policy Analysis estimated that drunk driving creates a total loss of $9 billion per year (16 cents for every mile driven in the U.S.). That was back in 2001. The cost can only have gone up in the ensuing decade.

If you are ticketed for drunk driving, you will probably go directly to jail and your car will be impounded. Someone will have to post bail for you and you’ll have to pay the towing and storage charge for your vehicle. Now you have to hire an attorney, because if you’re convicted of drunk driving, you face a ticket of several thousand dollars, depending on where you live and whether this is a first offense. Your license may be suspended. You’ll no doubt have to go to traffic school (and pay for it). And you will have to report the conviction to your current car insurance carrier at renewal time or when you look for car insurance quotes. Depending on your age, your driving record and other underwriting factors, you can expect to pay $1,000 or more a year extra to get car insurance after a DUI. Cheap car insurance and drunk driving definitely do not mix.

Even if you are not convicted of drunk driving or victimized by a drunk driver, you still pay for the crime in the form of higher car insurance premiums. That’s because alcohol-related crashes make up an estimated 18% of all U.S. auto insurance claims payments and loss adjustment expenses.They have to make that money up somewhere.


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