Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is no laughing matter. If convicted, you can get a significant fine, or even jail time. But even after your sentence is completed, the ordeal isn’t over. Then you have to deal with your car insurance company. Here’s how a DUI or DWI can affect your insurance rates.
DUI vs. DWI
In most states, DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) are interchangeable. Some states use one term, some use the other. However, some states use both, in which case, a DWI refers to alcohol, and a DUI refers to drugs—whether illegal or prescription.
In almost every state, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%. The one notable exception is Utah, which lowered their limit to 0.05% at the end of 2018. Those are the limits for regular drivers of legal drinking age. Many states have stricter regulations on commercial drivers, rideshare drivers, etc. And of course, the legal limit for any driver under 21 is a flat 0%.
So what happens if you are caught driving over the legal limit? You’ll be arrested, charged, and likely spend the night in jail—if for no other reason than because you’re not sober enough to drive home on your own. After that, you’ll be required to appear in court, to determine your guilt or innocence.
If you’re convicted of Driving Under the Influence, in addition to whatever fines and/or jail time you accrue, you may be required to obtain an SR-22 form. This is sort of like a note from your insurance company, asserting that, despite your mishap, your insurance is still valid. You’ll then need to carry this form in your car, and if you’re ever pulled over again, show it to the officer.
Some states require other forms as well, for more severe incidents. Delaware and Maryland may require an FR-19 form, and Florida and Florida and Virginia may require an FR-44. The court will tell you what forms you need. Talk to your car insurance provider about ensuring these forms are properly filed and valid.
Once you’re convicted of a DUI or DWI, your insurance premiums will go up almost immediately. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol means you’ve willfully put yourself and others in danger on the road, which makes you a liability. Depending on the severity of the incident, you may even lose your insurance entirely.
Assuming you do get to keep your coverage, your insurance rates will likely go up by hundreds of dollars. That’s why the SR-22 form is required. What your insurance company is essentially certifying is that you still have the financial means to pay your premiums, despite the sudden, significant increase.
A DUI stays on your record for 10 years or more , after which, if you’ve proven to be a safe and careful driver, your premiums can go back down again. However, if you have another DUI during that time, the consequences will be even more severe. You’re much more likely to serve jail time, and if you still get to keep your insurance coverage, you’ll be paying a whole lot more.
Never, ever drive drunk. Don’t even drive tipsy. If you’re having even a couple of drinks, have a designated driver ready, or call a cab or a rideshare service to get you home safely. Both the cops and your insurance company take DUIs and DWIs very seriously. You could ruin your life, and the lives anyone else on the road. By being careful and always driving sober, you can save a lot of money and a lot of hassle, and generally be a lot happier.
Contact us to learn more about how a DUI can affect your insurance rates, and what to do if you get one. And stay safe!