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Each year, about 10,000 drivers die on American roads in crashes involving alcohol. These alcohol-impaired deaths represent some 28% of all road fatalities in the United States.
Along with the emotional costs, road accidents cost the nation $44 billion in medical bills and work loss, according to the CDC. Extrapolating those figures, we found that drunk drivers are at the root of an expensive $12.32 billion in medical expenses and lost wages.
The cost of alcohol-impaired driving varies by state and depends on the severity of the accident. For example, if you’re convicted of a DUI in Tennessee, you could be on the hook for $5,650 to $8,650 in fees and penalties. That’s a small sum compared with what the Department of Motor Vehicles estimates for someone living in Alaska, a whopping $24,265.
To understand how these figures are calculated, let’s dive into the range of penalties you face for drunk driving.
You face a range of penalties if you’re caught and convicted for drunk driving that largely come down to how strict your state’s DUI laws are. All 50 states have adopted laws limiting your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08%. Still, the penalties you face in South Dakota differ widely from those of California, skewing the national average.
The average cost of $3,294 across the US doesn’t tell the whole story. This includes states that impose much lower fees and fines than the others. Compare the minimum average costs of a DUI for each state.
|State||Cost of DUI|
In terms of fines, you may want to avoid drunk driving altogether in Oregon. While fines vary depending on the severity of the incident, you could be hit with a fine of up to $6,000 in the Beaver State.
And in states with already high car insurance rates like Connecticut, a $1,500 increase to your premiums for the next few years is especially daunting. Other factors that significantly raise the cost in certain states are court fees and lost wages from jail time. Compare the overall most expensive states for DUI offenders.
The average fee for a first DUI conviction is $352, and that number jumps to $762 for your second conviction. Those numbers include states that don’t charge a required fee.
Fees are highest in states like Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Washington, Utah and Pennsylvania. Only 13 states have no required fine.
|State||1st conviction||2nd conviction|
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer that requires a driver to blow into a mouthpiece prior to starting the vehicle. If the IID detects that the driver’s BAC is above a predetermined threshold, the device immobilizes the vehicle.
An IID typically costs between $70 and $150 to install and roughly $60 to $80 monthly to maintain and calibrate.
The average amount of time you’ll need an IID is 9 months. Where you live determines how long you’ll need to use your IID, with many states requiring at least a year.
Whether you’re ordered to install an IID in your vehicle at all depends on your BAC and whether you’re a first-time offender. 36 states require it on a first conviction, and all but 3 states require it after your second conviction at least.
|New Hampshire||12 months|
|New Jersey||6 months|
|New Mexico||12 months|
|New York||6 months|
|North Carolina||12 months|
|North Dakota||1.1 months|
|Rhode Island||24 months|
|South Carolina||6 months|
|South Dakota||0 months|
|Washington, DC||0 months|
|West Virginia||4.17 months|
It’s a tricky number to estimate, especially given how differently incarceration and other penalties are handled among the states. A few states punch up the punishment by charging inmates up to $60 for each day they’re in jail.
On average, you’ll spend a minimum 1.5 days in jail after a DUI conviction, which includes states that don’t set a minimum jail time.
As for the cost of lost wages, let’s break down average costs. The median annual income in the US of $56,615 breaks down to $217 a day. At that rate, the average DUI costs $345 in lost wages.
However, that’s merely the minimum penalty for a first DUI conviction. Most penalties increase after your first DUI, increasing the possibility of jail time with each offense. These averages also don’t include job loss, which could be a reality if your employer catches wind of your DUI. Some government and public office positions or jobs that rely on your driving ability won’t allow employees with DUIs at all.
|State||Lost wages||Minimum jail time|
|Alabama||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Delaware||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Florida||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Idaho||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Illinois||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Indiana||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Maine||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Maryland||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Massachusetts||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Michigan||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Minnesota||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Mississippi||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Missouri||$0||No minimum sentence|
|New Hampshire||$0||No minimum sentence|
|New Jersey||$0||No minimum sentence|
|New Mexico||$0||No minimum sentence|
|New York||$0||No minimum sentence|
|North Carolina||$217||1 day|
|North Dakota||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Pennsylvania||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Rhode Island||$0||No minimum sentence|
|South Carolina||$434||2 days|
|South Dakota||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Vermont||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Virginia||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Washington, DC||$0||No minimum sentence|
|West Virginia||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Wisconsin||$0||No minimum sentence|
|Wyoming||$0||No minimum sentence|
When you’re convicted of a DUI, you’ll likely pay for towing and storage if your car is impounded, which varies by state. Towing fees could be as low as $75, for example, but impound, storage and recovery fees can run into the thousands.
After you’ve paid out your penalties and satisfied your sentence, there’s still the matter of reinstating your driver’s license. In most states, you’re looking at $20 to $40 for a new license, while Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington charge $70 or more.
You could face a higher license reinstatement fee for a DUI specifically. Rhode Island, for instance, charges $152 to reinstate a suspended license — but that number increases to $352 for a license suspended due to a DUI.
The costs don’t stop with your license. Depending on your state, you could end up paying 112% more each year on your car insurance premiums than before your conviction.
|State||Average car insurance||Premium increase||Cost of insurance after DUI|
Grabbing the wheel after getting a drink is a bad idea, endangering your life, your livelihood and the lives of fellow drivers. It’s also a costly one, with hundreds or thousands in fees, penalties and potentially jail time.
After a night out on the town, hail a cab, request a rideshare or take advantage of public transportation to avoid the devastation of drunk driving. To protect yourself from drunk drivers on the road, compare car insurance policies to cover you and your car from the unexpected.
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