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.

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