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How Does a DUI Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates
6 Oct 2018

DUI and Insurance: How Does a DUI Affect Your Auto Insurance Rates?

Each year, the cost of alcohol-related collisions is more than $44 billion. Driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence can cost lives, the respect of your peers, and a lot more money than most people think.

A DUI and insurance rates are closely linked. The infraction can lead to soaring rates.

What most people tend to not think about with their insurance is it can actually be the most expensive, monetarily speaking. The reason is the increase in cost can go on for years.

Whether you have a DUI or you’re just curious about what you can expect should you get one, this article will help you determine all the ways a DUI can impact your insurance. As with most things related to insurance, there are many factors to consider.

We’ll start this guide by first discussing what a DUI really is. Then we’ll move on to how getting one can affect your insurance.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how a DUI can affect insurance.

What Is a DUI?

DUI stands for driving under the influence. In some states, it’s synonymous with DWI, which stands for driving while intoxicated, or OUI, which stands for operating under the influence.

However, some states do differentiate between these offenses. Because of this, different insurance companies in different states may handle these offenses differently, but we’ll provide you with an overview.

Usually, any of these offenses would cast you into what’s known as the pool of high-risk drivers. We’ll come back to this term later, but it’s inclusion in this group that returns high insurance premiums for several or more years.

In states where a DUI is synonymous with DWI and/or OUI, it doesn’t just mean you’ve been driving under the influence of alcohol. It can also include prescription and/or illegal drugs, or any mixture of the three.

An Example

Let’s say you get pulled over and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.04. If you’re on prescription drugs, you could still be charged with a DUI, even though all 50 states list the legal BAC as 0.08.

We’ll get into BAC in more depth in a moment. But this illustrates the danger of using multiple substances–even if you think you’re using them properly.

The reason such combinations–or overuse of alcohol or use of illegal drugs–is so dangerous is because they affect the central nervous system, leading to:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Lessened ability to concentrate
  • Impairment of the ability to monitor speed

We’ll discuss the specificities of these impairments below. What’s most important to understand overall is that any combination of alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs can impair your ability to drive safely.

State By State

You should also know that each state may have its own laws and regulations regarding DUIs and other similar infractions. If you’re charged with any of these, you should hire a DUI attorney because you’ll need help handling the legal proceedings, even if you plead guilty.

Of course, it’s preferable not to drive under the influence. 57% of fatally-injured drivers have alcohol–or a combination of substances–in their bodies.

Save your life and the lives of others. Please don’t drive under the influence.

But in case you already have, and you’ve been caught, keep reading to learn more about BAC, DUIs, and insurance.

BAC Levels

Understanding BAC is important in preventing DUIs in the future. It can also help you further understand why you got a DUI if you find yourself in that situation.

When you’ve had about two drinks, you have a BAC of 0.02, and you might be unable to track a moving object like another car or a pedestrian. You might also be unable to handle two tasks simultaneously.

When you’ve had about three drinks, you have a BAC of 0.05, and in addition to the previous problems, you’ll experience reduced coordination. You’ll also have trouble steering and should you be in an emergency situation on the road, you won’t be able to respond as quickly or as well.

When you’ve had about four drinks, you have a BAC of 0.08. This is beyond the legal limit.

In addition to the problems listed above, you won’t be able to concentrate as well and you’ll start to experience short-term memory loss. You won’t be able to judge or control how fast you’re going.

You’ll also be less able to process information around you due to impaired perception.

When you’ve had about five drinks, you have a BAC of 0.10%. Along with all the previously mentioned problems, you’ll be unable to brake properly and you won’t be able to stay in your lane.

When you’ve had about seven drinks, you have a BAC of 0.15%. You can’t control your car.

You can’t pay attention to driving. You can’t process visual and auditory information.

Also, you suffer all the aforementioned impairments as well.

What Counts as a Drink?

Depending on your tolerance to alcohol, your BAC may not rise as fast as it does in others, like teenagers. As one in four collisions with teens involve a drunk driver who is underage, we think it’s safer to presume the following definition of a drink.

No matter what type of alcohol, a drink is measured as 0.6 ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol. If you’re drinking beer, which is 5% alcohol content, that’s the equivalent of 12 ounces.

Malt liquor is stronger at 7% alcohol content, so one drink is 8 ounces. Wine is even more potent at 12% alcohol content, which means a drink is 5 ounces.

A shot of 80-proof liquor or distilled spirits at 40% alcohol content would also count as a drink. A shot is typically 1.5 ounces.

Use these and the BAC guidelines above to help keep yourself and others safe. Or better yet, designate a sober driver if you plan on drinking.

If you already have a DUI, or you want to see how it can affect your insurance premiums and policy, keep reading.

DUI and Insurance

dui and insuranceYou’ve reached the meat of our ultimate guide to insurance and DUIs. If you’re still wondering about the answers to questions like, “How long does a DUI stay on your insurance?” and “What are DUI insurance rates?”, then this section should help answer your questions.

As we said earlier, getting a DUI places you in a certain pool of drivers. You then must pay for high-risk auto insurance.

This can be as costly or more costly than bad credit car insurance, especially as you might be able to repair your credit in less time than it takes for a DUI to leave your driving record.

It’s important to know even though a DUI drops off your driving record, it will remain on your criminal record unless expunged or sealed.

Premium Changes

Before we get into answering questions like, “How long does a DWI affect your insurance?”, we want to make sure you know what to expect as far as premiums and possible changes to your policy go.

In the state of California, someone who gets a DUI or DWI might pay as much as $40,000 due to years of insurance rate increases.

Understanding insurance premiums and how they can change due to a DUI can help you prepare for the worst financial obligations.

Depending on the insurance company, your state, and other factors, you can expect your insurance premium to increase by as much as five times over rates with a clean record.

You might not see these changes right away, but rather, at renewal. Those other factors we mentioned include:

  • Your credit history and score
  • Your age (younger drivers will suffer higher rate increases)
  • The number of DUIs you have
  • Your insurance company

Any safe driving discounts you had will also disappear, and may not reappear on your policy until years after your DUI has fallen off your driving record.

Let’s say a DUI stays on your driving record for seven years, and then you need three years of good driving to get a safe driver discount. This means you’ll have to wait a decade from your DUI to enjoy that discount again.

Policy Changes

A higher premium may not be your only insurance woe. If you get into an accident, your insurance company may not cover the accident.

Because some insurers consider collisions caused by drivers under the influence to not be accidental, you may get stuck paying for injuries to people and property.

Already, you can see that the answer to the question, “How long does a DUI affect insurance rates?” can be more complex than a short-term premium hike.

But the effects can be broader than just premiums. You could lose your policy.

If you have other major traffic violations on your record, your insurer might deem you too risky to cover, and cancel or non-renew your policy. If this happens, you’ll have to find new insurance and you may have to report to them that the reason for cancellation was your DUI.

Typically, a DUI will stay on your insurance for three to seven years. This can depend on state regulations and insurance company policies and procedures.

The only way to answer, “How long does a DUI affect insurance?” is to know what your insurer’s policies are. The only way to know specifically what your rate increase would be with a DUI would be to get a quote.

Can You Keep It a Secret?

With such stiff penalties to your insurance alone for a DUI, it might be tempting to keep it to yourself. But this would be a mistake for more than one reason.

First, insurers will find out anyway. Usually, at renewal, an insurance provider will check and see if you have any new violations.

If they find out about the DUI and you weren’t forthcoming with it, there’s a chance they could cancel your policy. Even worse, you could be charged with fraudulent behavior, which can have even greater legal and financial ramifications.

The best thing to do, as with an accident, is to report it immediately to your insurer.

The other reason you should tell them is to remain compliant with your state. Most states require an SR-22 to be submitted to the DMV.

The SR-22 is proof of financial responsibility. In many cases, an insurer will provide this for you either as part of the cost of your policy or a complimentary service at renewal.

However, if you get a DUI, you might need to submit this form again. In order to initiate the process, you need to contact your insurance company.

FYI, they might charge you a fee–usually no more than $45. Depending on your state, you may need to file an FR-44 or an FR-19 in addition or in lieu of the SR-22.

Guess who can help you determine which form(s) you need? Your insurer.

Failing to provide evidence of meeting required liability insurance to your state can result in additional penalties. These vary from state to state but can include license suspension.

It’s not worth it to try to keep it from your insurer if you get a DUI.

Can Someone Else Get A DUI on My Policy?

If you have a dependent who gets a DUI, as their parent or guardian that can and likely will affect your policy. You might want to look into specialty insurance companies for high-risk drivers and compare quotes.

If you have a friend who drives your car and gets a DUI, the situation can unfold in one of two ways:

  1. If your friend is not a named insured on your policy, it won’t affect your insurance.
  2. If your friend is a named insured on your policy, it will affect your insurance.

In the case of the second scenario, you might be able to limit the damage by calling your insurer, removing your friend from your policy and promising they won’t be allowed to drive your car again. However, this may not work if your friend shares your address.

Got Questions?

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you know everything you need to know about getting a DUI and insurance. That said, it is a complex situation with many moving parts and it’s natural to still have questions.

We recommend if you have questions about the legal proceedings, to reach out to a DUI attorney. There are lawyers who specialize in handling DUIs.

For questions about how your insurer would handle a DUI in your state for a specific driver, you should call your provider, agent, or broker.

If you have questions about this article and insurance in general, then we invite you to contact us.