Drunk driving remains a serious problem in the United States, even with the prevalence of public service campaigns aimed at reducing the problem. One person dies about every hour of every day in the US because of drunk driving accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Every one of these deaths is preventable. People have to make the decision not to drink and drive, to enjoy alcohol responsibly, and to know their limits. But unfortunately, drunk driving accidents are common, and they destroy families and claim innocent lives every day.
Read on to learn more drunk driving statistics and contact your agent for more information.
The Facts About Drunk Driving
Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never a wise idea and these drunk driving statistics illustrate why.
Facts about alcohol intoxication
- Alcohol affects all parts of the brain. It can impair judgment, lower inhibitions, hinder impulse control, and destroy balance and coordination — all critical skills to have when operating a motor vehicle.
- There are several stages of intoxication, and the effects of alcohol are felt after just one drink. When a person’s blood alcohol level (BAC) is between .01 and .05 they are starting to be affected by alcohol but are probably not feeling much yet. As a person drinks more and their BAC rises, they will feel more effects of the alcohol.
- Every person processes alcohol differently. Your weight, age, sex, diet, and other factors can affect how alcohol interacts with you. And alcohol could have different effects on you each time you drink, making it challenging to predict how a few drinks will hit you.
- The only way to reduce your BAC is by allowing time to pass without drinking. Some people think taking a shower, eating a meal, or drinking coffee or water will sober them up, but this isn’t true. Only time will help, so people should plan plenty of time to avoid driving after they have been drinking. It takes about an hour for one drink to metabolize in your body.
Facts about alcohol and driving
- MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) reports there are 121 million drunk driving incidents annually, or about 300,000 daily. And teens who drink are up to seven times more likely to have a car accident than teens who abstain from alcohol.
- All states have Zero Tolerance laws on the books. Drivers under the age of 21 may not have any alcohol in their system while driving.
- It is illegal to drive with a BAC greater than .08 in any state (except Utah) or in Washington DC.
- Utah passed a more restrictive law in 2019 lowering the BAC limit to .05 in the state. The measure seems to have had early success, with a 20% reduction in fatal accidents in 2019.
- If you are stopped by law enforcement or drive through a sobriety checkpoint, officers may ask you to take a field sobriety test if they question your sobriety. This could include any of five common tests:
- Nystagmus (or eye gaze) test
- Finger to nose
- Walk and turn
- Balance on one leg
- Rhomberg balance test (you’re asked to stand up straight with eyes closed and head back for a 30 second period of time you must estimate yourself)
- If you fail a field sobriety test, you may be asked to take a breathalyzer test in the field. This entails blowing into a device to measure your BAC. You may also be asked to go to the hospital for a blood test to determine your BAC.
- If you refuse the breathalyzer or blood alcohol test a police officer asks you to take, you may be subject to a mandatory license suspension of up to 12 months, jail time, or a fine depending on your state. Driving is a privilege, so refusing to allow a BAC test can revoke your privileges and have serious consequences.
The Consequences of Drunk Driving
If you are ticketed for drunk driving, there are several consequences you will face. The consequences of your situation will vary depending on individual factors like:
- Your driving history and if you have been charged with drunk driving in the past
- Your BAC level
- If you caused an accident while drunk, damaged property, or injured anyone
- If you were charged with any other offense, like speeding, when you were pulled over for drunk driving
After a drunk driving conviction, you can expect to pay a lot of money. It is expensive to get a DWI. Depending on your state and other factors, you can pay between $2000-$6000. Your costs will vary but there are some average costs to expect:
- Average fines are $338
- Bail and court fees average $133 across the country
- License fees are approximately $93
- An alcohol education program costs around $235
- Increases to your car insurance can cost an average of $2231
- Interlock device charges average $748
The costs skyrocket for a second offense, and in some states can result in jail time. Some states also have laws that make two DWIs in a certain period of time a felony charge. Having a felony on your record has lifelong ramifications affecting where you can live, work, and travel — in addition to the economic consequences.
Because of your DWI, you will also likely incur some indirect costs like lost wages to attend court appointments or alcohol education classes. Your car might be towed when you are arrested for drunk driving, and towing and storage costs quickly add up especially if you cannot pick up your vehicle right away. If the police impound your vehicle, you will need to pay a fee to get it back.
You will also likely lose your driving privileges for a period of time. In addition to paying the state to reinstate your license, you will also need to pay for alternative transportation during the time when you cannot drive. Uber, cabs, or even the bus can be expensive and inconvenient.
If you caused an accident and damaged someone else’s property or injured someone, they may decide to sue you. If you have insurance, your liability coverage may afford some coverage to help pay for the damages, but you may still be sued for any amounts over the policy limit. If you have low limits or if multiple people are injured, you may be at personal risk of a lawsuit.
Talk with your agent about your insurance limits. Do you have the state minimum coverages or have you increased your coverage limits? It may be a best practice to consider how much insurance you may need if you were involved in a serious accident.
Ignition interlock device
After a DWI conviction, drivers are required to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, in their vehicle. This is a small device that measures a driver’s BAC through their breath. If a driver has an elevated BAC, the vehicle will not turn on. The driver must periodically provide another breath sample during the drive if requested. The costs of installing and maintaining the IID are the responsibility of the driver.
Insurance after a drunk driving conviction
As you might expect, insurance companies consider drivers who have been convicted of DWI or DUI offenses to be higher-risk drivers. Your current car insurance company may decide to drop your coverage or non-renew you at your next premium.
Working with an agent to help you shop around and compare rates as a higher-risk driver is the best way to save on auto insurance after a drunk driving ticket. Use our free online comparison tool to start your search, then reach out to a local agent for more help.
If you are convicted of a DWI offense, you will likely need to secure SR-22 insurance — and not all auto insurance companies will write that coverage. SR-22 is a form the state requires after a DWI conviction to show a driver is maintaining their insurance coverage. Your car insurance company will file the SR-22 with your state for as long as you have a policy with the insurer.
If you live in Florida or Virginia, your state requires a form called the FR-44 instead of the SR-22. It accomplishes the same purpose.
There are eight states that do not require the SR-22 or FR-44:
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
Tips to Help to Prevent Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is a preventable issue and each one of us can do something to help prevent drunk driving. And keeping even one intoxicated driver off the road will help keep people safer.
Have a plan every time you go out.
Make a safety plan each time you go out for drinks. This could include designating a driver to stay sober or using public transportation and leaving your car at home. You could also ask a friend to come pick you up or stay at a hotel you can walk to after your night out.
Plan a night in rather than going out.
Try entertaining friends at home instead of hitting the bars. You can save money and keep yourself and your guests safe by staying at home off the roads. Make it a game night or hire a caterer so you can focus on your guests.
Talk with your children and teens often.
You are the best defense when it comes to helping your kids learn not to drink and drive. Talk with them often about the dangers of underaged drinking and of driving after having any drinks. Make sure they understand you will come pick them up whenever needed — with no retribution after the fact. Making a safe decision should be rewarded and a positive discussion can follow about making good choices. Check out the resources from your local school, police department, or mental health advocates.
Get familiar with public transportation.
If you live in an urban area, chances are there is decent public transportation near the nightlife. Check out trains, buses, trolleys, and subways to find the best route to your destination. If you aren’t going far, walking could be the best way to get some fresh air and make it home safely.
Offer to stay sober sometimes.
Take your turn being the designated driver for your group of friends. And that means staying sober, not being the least drunk one in the group. Stick to water or soda and enjoy the music or conversation this time. Getting your friends home safely is worth sacrificing a night of alcoholic fun.
The Bottom Line
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never worth it. The consequences are severe and can have lifelong consequences for you and others. There are many resources available to help if you have a problem with alcohol. Reach out for help and form a safety plan to avoid driving after you have been drinking.