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How a DUI Affects Your Auto Insurance Premium

2017 03 16 Duiaffectspremium

By Madeline Klein on March 16, 2017 in Policy Changes

In the States, we don't have to search hard for opportunities to kick back and have fun with some booze. Between holidays, sporting events, happy hours and just making it through the work week, we know how to drink. We also know that if we drink, we shouldn't drive. Unfortunately, we're not always great with the second part, which is why 1.5 million people in the United States get arrested for driving under the influence every year, according to StatisticBrain.

We're told drunk driving is dangerous and stupid (it is), we're told it's expensive (it is) and we're told it has lasting consequences (it does). And since Say is all about keeping drivers protected, we figure we could hone in on one of those consequences: the effect a DUI has on your auto insurance premium.

First, let's talk about how easy it is to get legally drunk.

In terms of driving, every state considers you to be drunk if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level is .08 or higher. Most of us know that number but have no idea what the heck that means in terms of beer, wine or (don't bother driving) tequila shots. Most of the time we judge our ability to drive on how good we think our tolerance is, but even if the room isn't spinning, your BAC might be well over the legal limit.

In a BACtrack.com experiment, they tested the effects of alcohol on three different people with significantly different weights. Each person was given two slices of pizza, one pint of beer with 4.2% alcohol, and two glasses of wine containing 13% alcohol over a 90 minute time period. Fifteen minutes later, they measured their BAC levels. The heaviest person (215 lbs) had a BAC of .047, the middle (175 lbs) had a .064 and the lightest (150 lbs) had a .097.

Looks like weight is the main factor right? Well those results don't totally align with the chart DUI.DrivingLaws.org put together for the amount of drinks it takes to get a BAC over .08 (based on your weight and using the typical definition of a drink as 1.5 ounces of liquor, 12 ounces of beer and 5 ounces of wine). We're not surprised and DUI.DrivingLaws probably wouldn't be either. Why? Because BAC levels are extremely sensitive to your weight, your diet, how your individual body metabolizes liquor, etc. And let's be honest here: How many of us actually measure our alcohol versus using the 20 ounce wine glass, filling it and calling it "one"?

Our point is it's hard to guess what a drink does to your BAC, which makes it easy to unknowingly drive with one over the legal limit, which means hello DUI.

Now, the insurance part, starting with reporting your DUI.

Whether your state requires you to tell your insurance provider immediately, you're allowed to wait until you file your SR-22 (discussed below) or you wait until your provider gets an updated driving record, your insurance provider will be notified of your DUI. A DUI is considered risky driving, so once your provider knows, your risk profile will change and your premium rate will be recalculated to reflect it. (Some companies might even consider you to be too "high risk" and cancel your policy altogether.)

While it's hard to know exactly how much your premium will change, NerdWallet studies put the range anywhere from $800 to $2,700. Since we have a lot of drivers in Illinois, we thought it would be good to mention Credio.com broke down average increases by state, showing Illinois had a relatively low increase of about 54 percent compared to North Carolina's 275 percent increase.

1. DUI = Risk. Risk = Higher Insurance Rate. Higher Insurance Rate = More Expensive Premium.

Let's talk about the SR-22.

If you're convicted of a DUI, most states will require you to file an SR-22 form in order to get your driving privileges back. The form is a statement of responsibility showing you have auto insurance with the state required minimums of liability insurance (Bodily Injury and Property Damage).

The form itself does not make your rates go up, but the risk it indicates does. And if you're in a state like Florida, the liability minimums are upped significantly for drivers with a DUI. Whereas a non-convicted driver in Florida is required to have a $10,000 limit for Bodily Injury and a $10,000 limit for Property Damage, a driver with a DUI is required to have $100,000 for Bodily Injury and $300,000 for Property Damage.

2. Being in a state that requires more coverage means paying more for your premium.

How long does this affect my auto insurance?

Depending on your state and whether or not you got a lawyer, the average time it takes a DUI to drop off of your driving record is five years, though it may remain on your criminal record for longer. With the five year average, that means the NerdWallet estimates of $800 to $2,700 yearly increased can end up costing you a total of $4,000 to $13,500!

3. The longer a DUI last on your driving record, the more you multiply your costs.

Is that it?

In terms of auto insurance, those are the main highlights. But we'd be silly not to note the potential fines, jail time, reinstatement fees, lawyer fees and cost of transportation while your license is suspended. The fines and fees alone could cost you an estimated $10,000 with NerdWallet's calculations.

So from a caring insurance provider that is all about playing it safe, please do not drink and drive.

Madeline Klein is Say's Digital Content Producer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her experience is in writing and digital media. Madeline loves using her creativity to write and design new and exciting pieces of work for Say!