Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offence throughout Canada. If caught, you may be forced to endure a number of consequences ranging from licence suspension and vehicle impound to higher car insurance rates. But these facts alone fail to demonstrate the true costs of drunk driving in the context of your auto insurance.
Below, we’ll approach this issue by first explaining the significance of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This is the number most people focus on. It is worth gaining a better understanding of the role it plays in determining whether you are driving while impaired. We’ll also take a look at the effects a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction as well as the direct and indirect costs it imposes.
How Important Is Your Blood Alcohol Concentration?
Police officers can determine the amount of alcohol currently in your body by measuring the amount in your bloodstream. This latter measurement, known as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), can be taken via a blood test, urinalysis, or breathalyzer test.
Your BAC is important in relation to the maximum allowable limit (0.08). If your BAC is higher while operating a vehicle, you can be immediately charged with an offence, with your car impounded and licence suspended. But many people are unaware they can be charged with a crime, even if their BAC is below the limit. The penalties vary by province.
For example, suppose you live in Ontario, and are pulled over by a police officer. He or she measures your BAC at 0.06. Even though you are below the maximum allowable limit, you are considered to be within a “Warn Range” (0.05 to 0.08).
If this is your first time, the police officer can suspend your licence for up to three days and levy a $150 fine. For a second-time offence (within five years), your licence may be suspended for up to seven days. In addition, you may have to pay another $150 fine and enroll into an alcohol education program. Subsequent offences result in even stiffer penalties.
To summarize, your BAC is important, but not only in the context of Canada’s maximum allowable limit of 0.08. A lower BAC can still pose problems; you may be technically “legal” with regard to the Criminal Code, but still suffer penalties depending on your province.
The Sobering Costs Of Driving While Drunk
If you’re caught driving while drunk, you’ll earn a DUI conviction. There are direct costs, especially if you cause an accident.
First, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs effectively voids your auto insurance coverage. Consider what voided coverage implies. An accident usually results in damage to one or more vehicles; a severe collision may total them. Without coverage, you will be expected to compensate the other driver for any needed repairs. You’ll also need to repair or replace your own vehicle. This alone can cost thousands of dollars, without considering other property damage.
If someone is injured as a result of the accident, you will be held liable for costs related to their hospitalization, therapy, and medications. Severe injuries can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Drivers who were involved in the collision will seek compensation from their respective insurers (via accident benefits). Their insurers will likely file lawsuits to pursue recompense from you.
Lastly, your premiums will likely skyrocket. It is not uncommon for drivers who receive DUIs on their driving records to find that their rates triple. Even if your insurance company offers accident forgiveness, they will be disinclined to forgive an at-fault accident caused while drunk.
Indirect Costs Of Drinking And Driving
One of the “hidden” costs of drunk driving involves the suspension of a person’s driver’s licence. If you rely on your vehicle for your livelihood, losing your licence – even temporarily – can have devastating effects. In Ontario, a first-time DUI offence results in a 3-month suspension. Second and third-time DUI offences produce much longer suspensions. This may cause you to lose your job.
You already realize that drinking and driving make a poor combination. But it is important to have a realistic view of the costs involved. Not only will your car insurance rates rise dramatically, but you may be held liable for damages and injuries that result from an at-fault accident.