What Happens to Your Life When You Get a DUI

Posted on July 26, 2018 by michael

Driving under the influence can be one of the most dangerous and life-risking things a person can do. Not only does it put oneself in harm’s way, but it can also endanger the lives of others who will ultimately suffer the consequences of someone else’s poor choices. Unfortunately, DUI’s are a significant problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, “In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.” In fact, they estimate that every day, around 28 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an impaired driver. This is equal to approximately one death every 53 minutes. The total annual cost of these incidents amounts to more than $44 billion.

Perhaps even more alarmingly, the CDC notes that impaired driving accounted for nearly 19% of the 1,070 traffic-related deaths of children aged 0-14 in 2014 alone. Furthermore, 209 of these children were passengers, and over half of them were riding with the driver who was under the influence.

However, DUI’s are just as harmful to the individuals driving. After all, driving under the influence can be fatal to the impaired driver and comes with a number of legal repercussions as well. In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or narcotics. This amounts to only 1% of the incredibly dangerous 121 million self-reported impaired driving incidents which occur in the U.S. each year.

 

The Legal Consequences of DUI

 

DUIs can result in a number of consequences, including a criminal record. Each state has a different maximum blood-alcohol content limit (BAC) which determines the amount of alcohol that can legally be present in one’s bloodstream before it is deemed unsafe for them to drive. According to the Governors Highway Safety Associatoin (GHSA), “All states define driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent as a crime, but specific laws and penalties vary substantially from state to state.” They also note that all states have some sort of ignition interlock law. What this means is that convicted drunk drivers are required by judges to install interlocks on their cars – these analyze the breath of the driver and disable the engine if alcohol is detected.

In 21 states (and 4 counties in California), some form of ignition interlock is required or, at the very least,  highly advised for convicted DUIs, even if they are only first-time offenders. Moreover, alcohol exclusion laws allow most insurance companies to deny treatment payment for injuries sustained by drunk drivers. Unfortunately, these exclusion laws have also limited some doctors’ abilities to properly diagnose alcohol problems and recommend treatment. Only a few states have repealed such laws.

For most states, the increased penalty number for DUIs is around .15. This means that at this stage it is almost guaranteed that a driver’s license will be suspended, and the driver will be subjected to a number of other legal consequences. These include:

 

  • Limited to no driving privileges during suspension.
  • Required ignition interlocks.
  • Vehicle impoundment, sanction, or confiscation.

 

The Financial Consequences of DUI

We’ve explored previously that many insurance companies won’t cover injury treatment expenses caused by DUI but it doesn’t end there. It’s no secret that accidents caused by driving under the influence will drastically raise one’s insurance premium. Drivers convicted of DUI will experience a significant raise in insurance expenses, sometimes double or triple the original amount. This is because DUI drivers are considered “high risk” and therefore insurance companies believe that they will be more likely to get into an accident and need coverage. However, some companies may actually even terminate coverage following a DUI conviction because they do not want to be responsible for the expenses incurred by such risky drivers. Ultimately, insurance companies are a business and DUI drivers may be seen as a bad investment.

More than just insurance rates, however, drivers who elect to drive under the influence will also have to pay fines, legal fees, and court costs, all of which can be expensive. While first-offender fines vary from state-to-state, the highest fine is in Texas at a startling $2,000. The average court case will also cost around $3,000 – $5,000 (or even more if you live in Alaska). When arrested for DUI, bail can range from approximately $150 to up to $2,000 depending on location and incident. Then there are license reinstatement fees and other incidental costs, administrative hearing fees, towing, and ongoing expenses such as any of the following:

 

  • DUI classes and/or treatment (around $245-$2,000).
  • Engine Interlock Devices (around $25-$200 to install [$1,700 in Alaska] and $25-$200 to maintain monthly).
  • 50 Hours of Community Service (some states charge an additional fine of $10 per hour).

 

When one take into account these costs as well as the newly added cost of public transport and/or cab fare if one’s car is lost, the financial consequences of DUIs are staggering.

 

The Personal Risk

In addition to increasing the chances of driving mortality, DUIs also come with a number of other personal risks. Having a DUI can effectively have a severe negative impact on one’s life and relationships. For example, a DUI means having a criminal record, which can limit potential jobs. It can also be grounds for termination from certain jobs that one is already working at depending on corporate policy. Even if the job is safe, court dates, jail time, and community service hours all wreak havoc on one’s work schedule and, consequently, paycheck. This is especially disconcerting when we consider the overall cost of having the DUI in the first place.

Additionally, having a DUI on one’s record can adversely affect how they’re perceived by others, including coworkers and their employer. But that’s not all – DUIs can also negatively impact personal relationships and alter how an individual is perceived by their own family and friends. Driving under the influence is a cause for concern amongst loved ones and can even threaten the success of intimate relationships as it can potentially have negative effects on a partner’s trust. This can result in feelings of shame and guilt in addition to any negative emotions the individual may have experienced from the incident itself.

DUIs also disqualify many individuals from applying for schools and scholarships. Many schools refuse to accept prospective students with a DUI on their record. Moreover, as most colleges conduct background checks on applicants and pay particular attention to any existing criminal reports, the existence of a DUI may severely limit one’s access to higher education and financial assistance.

 

Don’t Drive Under the Influence

As we’ve seen, driving under the influence can effectively ruin one’s life if not downright end it. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation: “Every 2-hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes.” They note that it’s remarkable that this number isn’t higher, but certain laws such as the Zero Tolerance policy – which makes it a criminal offense for drivers under the age of 21 to drive with even a minute amount of alcohol in their system – may be having a positive impact. However, they also reveal that “among major crimes, driving under the influence has one of the highest arrest rates with more than 1.4 million DUI arrests in 2010.”

Driving under the influence puts the life of the driver and the people around them at risk. Even in the event that there is no fatality, DUIs can still have a significant negative impact on one’s life legally, personally, and financially. All of these consequences present lasting effects on the individual’s job and school prospects, as well as their personal relationships. Because of this driving under the influence is more than just a poor choice – it’s life-changing.

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