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While police and courts in every state enforce strict laws against driving under the influence, insurance companies may evaluate your risk as a driver (and your monthly premiums) as they see fit. Depending on a variety of factors relating to the severity of your driving offense, your risk as a driver, and your social and economic demographics, insurers may raise your rates, require you to purchase “high risk” insurance, or cancel your coverage altogether. Keep in mind that these are subjective measures, and each insurer will interpret your driving record (including DUI’s) in slightly different ways. Here’s what you need to know regarding insurance coverage after being arrested for drinking and driving. Depending on your state of residence, your local authorities may refer to drinking and driving as one of the following:
- DWI (Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired); still others refer to drunk driving as OUI (Operating Under the Influence), OWI(Operating While Intoxicated or Operating While Impaired), OVI (Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated), OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol), OUIL (Operating Under the Influence of Liquor), DUIL (Driving Under the Influence of Liquor), DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants), DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), DWUI (Driving While Under the Influence), DUBAL (Driving with an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level), UBAL (Driving with an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level), UBAC (Driving with an Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Content) or DAI (Driving After Imbibing). [Excerpt from 1800duilaws.com]
Keep in mind that these are subjective measures, and each insurer will interpret your driving record (including DUI’s) in slightly different ways
SR-22 Proof of Insurance
The most common element a DUI or DWI offender will encounter after their license and driving privileges have been reinstated is the notorious SR-22 form. The idea of an SR-22 proof of insurance form is much simpler than some insurers would have you believe: It is simply a form that you or your insurer must file with your state’s department of motor vehicles (or department of licensing) to verify that you have valid insurance coverage. This is commonly required in most states following a DUI or DWI offense, as well as other offenses under which a driver’s license would be revoked or suspended, such as excessive speeding, a violent crash, or other serious moving violations.
An SR-22 proof of insurance form is often required for up to three years following a suspended license, and most states will require newly reinstated drivers to carry insurance, or else surrender their driver’s license. If you cancel your coverage or switch insurers, your insurer is required to notify the state so that police officers can be on the lookout for you as a former DUI offender with canceled insurance coverage.
No Special Treatment Required
What SR-22 isn’t is some kind of “special” or “high-risk” insurance coverage. The same regulations and minimum requirements for insurance coverage apply to former DUI offenders as they do for any law-abiding driver with a clean history. The only difference for a DUI offender is that they have a mark on their driving record, and insurers will assess that driver’s future risk potential (and monthly premium cost) accordingly.
Rates and Risk
Most major insurers use similar formulas and market data to calculate a driver’s risk of causing a future accident, and in turn calculate how much they need to charge for monthly premiums to make insuring a driver a financially smart decision. As such, most major insurers will offer similar rates to DUI offenders, just as most will offer similarly “competitive” rates to new drivers searching for insurance.
If every insurer in the marketplace either denies coverage for former DUI offenders or else charges exorbitantly high rates for such drivers, the average person with a DUI on their record will have a hard time finding cheap insurance. This is too often the case for such drivers, as they are considered to pose a high risk on the road. Such risk assessment is compounded when a DUI involved other factors that on their own would raise a driver’s perceived risk factor, such as excessive speeding, a serious crash involving property damage, or a crash involving injuries to passengers or pedestrians.
Cancelled Coverage After A DUI
After a DUI, your insurer may decide to cancel your policy to avoid the risk of paying for your next accident. As in most employment contracts, the average insurance policy is written as a mutual, non-binding agreement, meaning that either party (you or your insurer) can terminate the contract and cancel the policy at any time, for any reason. A DUI or high-speed crash is a reason many drivers find themselves with no choice but to look for a new insurer. Keep in mind that cancelling a policy does not work retroactively, meaning that if you had insurance coverage at the time of an accident, your policy applies to cover any damages or injuries (including ongoing medical treatment), even if you cancel coverage at a later date.
Keep in mind that cancelling a policy does not work retroactively
Getting The Best Rate After A DUI
The best thing any driver can do to get the lowest possible rate is to shop around; whether shopping as a new driver with a clean history at age 16, or as a former DUI offender who recently got their license renewed after a suspension, one can only be sure they’ve found the best rate after exhausting all possibilities and getting quotes from as many insurers as they can find in the local market. Following a DUI, a driver’s rates will go down over time if they drive for a few years or more without any accidents, or if their lifestyle changes. Getting a new job, buying a house, moving to the suburbs, driving a minivan or econobox, and the simple act of getting older will lower a driver’s rates compared to young nightlife in the city with a two-seater sports car, so some drivers will see their rates go down for lifestyle reasons rather than simply having a clean driving record over a few years.
Just as in the courtroom, each case is judged differently.
A misdemeanor DUI offense at low speed when driving two blocks home from your local bar will obviously have a different affect on your rates than a violent crash at highway speed involving alcohol, drugs, or injuries. While some insurers may try to convince you that a single DUI offense puts you in the “high-risk” category, it’s best to shop around before giving in to high premiums right away. If you are a first-time DUI offender who didn’t cause a serious accident, and who has an otherwise clean driving record, you should search for coverage at different insurers before settling for the costly one advertising on late-night infomercials.
A Night On Your Friend’s Couch or 90 Days On the Bus?
While it’s tempting to imagine that getting caught driving under the influence won’t be so bad, or that it’s no worse than a speeding ticket, compare the hard facts. Outside of handful of states in the midwest which mandate a 30-day license suspension for first-time DUI offenders, most states mandate a first-time DUI offender’s license be suspended for 90 days, and some states require a six-month or one-year suspension. For repeat offenders, most states will suspend a second- or third-time offender’s license from six months to several years.
Driving home intoxicated just so you can sleep in your own bed will never be worth it
Remember: No matter how you try to rationalize it, 90 days riding the bus, bumming rides from friends, and taking taxis will never sound more appealing than one night sleeping on a couch, a floor, or taking a cab to a nearby motel. Driving home intoxicated just so you can sleep in your own bed will never be worth it. And that’s without us going into fines, community service, probation, legal fees, and potential jail time.
If you committed a DUI just to see how your insurance rates would be affected, know that in most instances your insurance rates will go up significantly following a DUI and won’t be reduced for at least three years following the accident. Keep that extra financial burden in mind so you’re motivated to catch a cab next time you’re out on the town!