DUI Laws, Insurance Rates, and Interlock Devices


DUI check - policeman holding a breathalyzer

Don’t drive drunk. Don’t drive while impaired. Just… don’t.

It’s sound advice you’ve heard a million times before. It’s common sense. And it’s one of the best ways to avoid taking a significant hit to the wallet when it comes to auto insurance.

There’s no way around it. Having a DUI on your driving record flags you as a high-risk driver. High-risk drivers pay more for auto insurance. If you have a poor driving history, a DUI may cause your insurance company to cancel your policy. Even with a previously perfect driving record, a DUI will at the very least cause your insurance rates to go up.

SR-22s and rate increases

Every state in New England requires that you report your DUI to your insurer. A DUI is considered a major violation, like reckless driving or hit-and-run. You will be required to get what’s called an SR-22, a form filed on your behalf by your insurance company which constitutes proof that you are carrying the required amount of liability insurance. It’s also a red-flag that you are a high risk driver. (In Virginia and Florida, the required form is called an FR-44.) There will be a filing fee, usually between $20-$50. Not all insurance companies will file an SR-22. Some insurance companies will not insure high risk drivers, so if yours does not file, you will likely need a new policy with a company that will file the form. Depending on the state in which you live, you will be required to carry SR-22 insurance for three to five years.

After filing an SR-22, brace yourself: your insurance rates are going up. A recent study showed that on average insurance rates increased by more than 56% – a $1000 yearly rate would become $1560 after a first DUI offense.

Average Insurance Rate Increases in New England:

  • Connecticut: 1.75x
  • Maine: 1.67x
  • Massachusetts: 2.17x
  • New Hampshire: 2.30x
  • Rhode Island: 1.31x
  • Vermont: 2.83x

Note that these estimates are for a first offense. Multiple DUIs will result in concomitantly larger rate increases or, more likely, policy cancellation. Note also that rate increases are contingent on other factors such as age and driving record – a 50-year-old with a clean driving record will likely face a lower rate hike than a 25-year-old with multiple moving violations.

Ignition interlock device laws

In addition to requiring an SR-22, you may also be required to install (at your expense) an ignition interlock device. The cost to install these devices varies by jurisdiction, but is usually around $175-$300. These devices are basically breathalyzers attached to your vehicle’s starter. They won’t let the car start if they detect alcohol on your breath (the base limit of alcohol allowed varies between jurisdictions, but is almost always “none”). Also, at random times while the vehicle is in motion, the system will require another puff into the analyzer. This “rolling retest” is designed to prevent non-drivers from providing a breath sample and to prevent consumption of alcohol behind the wheel.

Depending on where your DUI occurred and the severity of the charge, you may be required to keep an ignition interlock on your vehicle as part of your DUI plea. In other jurisdictions, installing an ignition interlock device may shorten the duration that your driving privileges are suspended. Your insurance advisor can help sort out these details and make sure you’re in legal compliance and on the best path toward repairing your driving record.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) offers a handy chart that summarizes state laws related to impaired driving. They note that all states have some type of ignition interlock program. Also see the National Conference of State Legislatures for a 50-state overview of ignition interlock regulations.  We’ve included links below for more detail on how each state in New England approaches drunk/impaired driving and how they deal with ignition interlock devices:

As with any insurance matter, your independent insurance agent is there to answer questions and walk you through the tangle of insurance-related problems arising from a DUI.

But the best solution is still the simplest: don’t drive impaired. Have a designated driver, take a cab home, use a ride-sharing service like Lyft or Uber. A little planning and foresight now can make a world of difference.

Trucks & teens: Tips for safely sharing the road


trucks on the highway

Learning the rules of the road is essential for all new drivers, both teens getting their first driver’s license and adults venturing behind the wheel for first time. More and more Americans are delaying getting their licenses, and in an age that promises self-driving cars in the near future, that makes sense. But right now driving is still an important part of our lives, and safe driving is a rewarding skill that results in fewer accidents and injuries, lower insurance premiums, and lower public safety costs.

One of the scariest things that new drivers face on the roads are 18-wheelers. Big trucks are, well, big. And powerful. And they aren’t particularly nimble. New drivers tend to take them for granted or to become distracted by them. Both mistakes can have tragic outcomes. Knowing the rules and knowing what to look for around big trucks is an important part of road safety.

Scott Felthousen, a professional truck driver with more than a decade of driving under his belt, has put together a useful guide to safe driving around semis. While his tips are aimed at keeping teen drivers safe, the advice he dispenses is applicable to everyone.

In short, he advises:

  • Be aware of blind spots. Don’t assume the truck driver is regularly checking her mirrors.
  • Don’t linger. The safest place to be is as far from the truck as reasonable. If traffic allows, slow down or speed up to avoid driving in the trucker’s blind spot right next to the trailer.
  • Before passing a semi, check your rear-view mirror. Can you see both of the truck’s headlights in the center of your mirror? When you see those there, that’s the minimum distance you need to safely move ahead.
  • Give 18-wheelers the space they need. When encountering a big truck at an intersection, remember that truck needs a whole bunch of space to safely turn. A big rig turning onto a two-lane street is always going to need more space than the lane can accommodate.

Thinking ahead and being aware of your surroundings is a key part of safe driving for everyone,not just new drivers. Recognizing situations before they become dangerous and taking the right steps to prevent them from happening is a learned skill that new drivers should start practicing from the moment they grip the steering wheel.

Keep on top of vehicle recalls


illustration of cars in a car lot

Do you ever worry that you might have missed notice of an important vehicle recall for your car or truck? Who can keep up! Experts say that going into 2018, there are open, unfixed recalls on more than one out of every five cars. Thanks to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there’s an easy way to check if your vehicle has a recall notice.

First find your ride’s vehicle identification number( VIN). It’s unique to your car, and it’s located on the inside of the driver’s side door and on your sales documents. Snap a pic of it with your smartphone and save it with your important documents for quick retrieval. Then visit this handy NHTSA website and type in that VIN. Voila! Any recall notices you might have missed will pop up.

“Be sure that you are keeping yourself and your family safe, check your vehicle for important safety recalls today,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. “Did you know that you don’t have to pay to fix safety recalls? Please visit NHTSA.gov/recalls to find out if your car or truck has an outstanding recall, and call your dealership for your free repair.”

For another source to check, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers and Carfax recently announced a partnership to offer a free service to check on vehicle recalls. You can check by VIN number or enroll for alerts.  According to current Carfax research, more than 57 million vehicles on U.S. roads have unfixed recalls, despite the fact that voluntary recall remedies are completed free of charge to the consumer.

Recall notices can be issued long after a vehicle’s manufacturing date, so it’s important to check regularly (twice a year is good). It just takes a moment, the repairs are free, and it ensures you and your family are riding in safety!

 

Attention MA drivers: 2 important MA Registry of Motor Vehicles alerts


Car document icon

If you are a Massachusetts driver, here are two important notices from the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles.

1. Temporary shutdown this week:

The MA Registry Of Motor Vehicles is converting to a new computer system so plan accordingly if you need services. All services will be shutdown from Thursday 3/22 at 7:00 PM and will reopen on Monday 3/26 at 8:00 am.

The shutdown will affect:

  • All RMV offices
  • All RMV services offered through AAA offices
  • All online services
  • All inspection services at stations that inspect
  • All inspections through dealerships that inspect

For more information, click for the MA RMV shutdown alert.

2.  New Massachusetts Licensing & Renewal Requirements as of 3/25

On March 26, 2018, to get or renew any driver’s license, ID card, or learner’s permit, you need documentation showing U.S. citizenship or lawful presence as required by federal and state law.

Related: After October of 2020, you will need either a passport or REAL ID when you fly in the U.S. or enter certain federal buildings.

See the MA RMV Guide for more information on meeting these requirements.

Insurance basics: filing claims for home and auto


It’s smart to review insurance basics every now and again and the Insurance Information Institute has produced some quick, simple videos on what you need to do to file a home or an auto claim. One important first step is to take the time to review your policies each year and understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover – ask your local agent if you have any gaps or exposures that leave you vulnerable. For example, most homeowners policies don’t include flood coverage. Or if you have valuables such as antiques, jewelry, or special collections, you may want to add coverage for those because your standard homeowners has coverage limits.

As for autos, here’s an interesting post on Gap Insurance and when it might make sense. Today’s long-financing options mean that you might owe more than your car is worth and you could be stuck should you total your car unless you have Guaranteed Replacement Cost coverage or Guaranteed Auto Protection (Gap insurance).

One other option is an umbrella policy, which would boost your coverage on your home and auto should you have a large lawsuit. Umbrella policies typically kick in after your regular insurance is exhausted. Learn more here.

OK, with those reminders, here are some basics about filing home or auto claims.