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

And in Florida, rates would increase by 2.0x

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:

Florida DUI/Ignition Laws:

 

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.

The high cost of alcohol-impaired driving


What happens to your wallet if you are convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol? Financial penalties ae swift, severe, and can linger for a number of years. There are 42 states with an automatic license suspension on first offense, and the suspension can extend from 30 days to as much as a year, depending on the state.

You can look up your state’s impaired driving laws and penalties in this chart.

Here are some of the negative consequences of having a DUI conviction:

  • Your license could be suspended. 42 states have administrative license suspension on the first offense.
  • Your vehicle may be confiscated or impounded.
  • You may be required to participate in an ignition interlock program and pay for all associated costs. MADD estimates the cost of ignition interlock device installations at $70 to $150, plus a monthly fee of between $60 to $80.
  • You are flagged as a high risk driver and may require an SR-22 filing by your insurer. In violations that result in license suspension, SR-22 forms must be obtained from your insurer before a license can be reinstated. Essentially, it’s a red flag signifying that you are a high risk driver. State laws vary, but the average SR-22 spans three years.
  • You could be dropped by your insurer. At the very least, your auto insurance options are more limited.
  • You will pay higher insurance rates over a number of years.
  • You might be subject to alcohol exclusion laws. Currently, 37 states have laws that allow insurers to refuse payment of costs for treating drunk drivers’ injuries.

So far, we’ve only talked about the financial costs of a DUI violation. Impaired driving also puts you and others at a much greater risk of being injured or killed. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, accounting for nearly one-third of the nation’s traffic-related deaths. That’s about 28 people every day, or one death every 53 minutes.

It’s vitally important to understand the effects of alcohol on driving. See the 6 stages of getting drunk. Your BAC (Blood Alcohol Count) is a measure of the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. Check out the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Calculator to understand the impairment effects of drinking. There are also a variety of BAC gauging apps that you can get for your phone.

Our best advice? Line up a designated driver in advance or call a cab, an Uber or a Lyft. Impaired driving is not worth it, whatever measure you use!

New DUI law in Connecticut mandates an ignition interlock device


ignition-interlockSince July 1, if you are found to be driving under the influence (DUI) in Connecticut, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID), An IID is a type of breathalyzer that requires a breath sample before the car will start. (See the short video from LifeSafer in this post to learn how and IID works.) The car will be immobilized if the sample is over .025. Previously, installation of these devices was only required of repeat offenders, but now the law extends to first time offenders too. According to MADD CT, states with IID laws have seen a 40% decrease in alcohol related fatalities.

“The duration of time in which the IID must be installed is dependent on whether the offender is 21 at the time of the incident, whether they are a repeat offender, and the result or refusal of the blood alcohol test taken.

This law will affect up to 6,500 first-time offenders charged with operating under the influence. The previous law did not require those who entered a diversion program to use the IID, but the new law now requires all offenders to.”

This is in addition to any fines and suspensions that may be imposed. It’s up to the offender to pay for the device and its installation.” A device costs about $75 to install and $75 per month to maintain. They also require about $275 in DMV fees.”

All states have some form of ignition interlock device laws – and almost half of all states have mandatory provisions for all offenses. See the Insurance Information Institute for more on state drunk driving laws. MADD also has an update on state laws related to ignition interlock devices.

DUI conviction also have a severe impact on insurance rates
In addition to any state fines and penalties associated with a DUI offense, remember that a DUI conviction will be very costly to your insurance rates, too. Just how costly will vary, depending on the circumstances of the offense, your age, your driving history, your state law and your insurer. You may be designated as a high-risk driver, limiting your insurance options – some insurers may refuse to insure you at all. The amount of a surcharge can vary by insurer and the duration of such a surcharge will vary by state law. Usually, it will negatively affect your rates for at least three years and as many as 10 years, in some states.

Note: DUI is also sometimes referred to as OUI (operating under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated).

Image source: Video screen grab from LifeSafer

Super Bowl replicas from deli meats & Twinkies & other good party ideas


Looking for some last minute ideas to wow your Super Bowl party guests on Sunday? Why not try your hand at creating a Super Bowl stadium replica from deli meats or from Twinkies?

If food platter architecture is a little more than you feel you can tackle (ahem), maybe you might consider something along the lines of a Super Bowl themed cakes, cookies or sandwiches. Also check the Food Network’s Big Game Bash page and Winning Super Bowl Recipes from AllYou. We particularly like the look of these football shaped peanut butter swirl brownies.

Have fun, but remember – Super Bowl Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk

Everyone loves a party, but don’t let fun run away with you. Our best party tip is to remind you that it’s important to be responsible hosts so that you or your guests don’t end up in the local headlines on the day after. Rest assured, law enforcement and DUI patrols will be doing double duty to catch impaired drivers. And if you are a party host, you may have liability if your guests drink and drive.

The NFL, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and other groups have all teamed up to raise awareness about drunk driving in a Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk campaign. Safety tips and advice for hosting parties, planning for designated drivers, and more can be found at the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.