Drinking and driving is a dangerous problem in the United States — every 52 minutes, one person is killed in an alcohol-involved crash. Intoxicated drivers aren’t the only victims; these accidents take the lives of innocent children, pedestrians, and sober drivers.
If you’re someone who drives after a night of drinking, don’t wait until a court mandates an ignition interlock program to reconsider your behavior. By making different choices now, it’s possible to avoid consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life.
1. You Could Injure or Kill a Child
Drunk driving is not a victimless crime. If you drive while impaired, you run a significant risk of killing or injuring a child. In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that alcohol was a factor in 19% of the crashes that killed children aged 14 and under.
When your drunk driving hurts another person, the legal ramifications are serious. Prison time is just the start. The devastating emotional and psychological effects of killing a child can last a lifetime; it’s the single biggest reason why you shouldn’t drink and drive.
2. Drunk Driving Can Get You Fired
In the age of social media, a drunk-driving incident rarely stays hidden — especially if it involves an injury, death, or property damage. Employers rarely want to deal with negative public attention, so you’re likely to lose your job.
The chances of job loss increase if you’re convicted and required to complete an ignition interlock program. It is legal for an employer to fire you for an off-the-clock driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction, especially if you’re an at-will employee.
Some of the reasons that an employer may use for firing you after a DWI:
- A suspended driver’s license affects your ability to complete job duties
- The company has a policy against hiring people with criminal convictions
- Your conviction is a liability because you work with vulnerable populations
- Your position is one that requires trust, such as a teacher or doctor
- A state licensing board stripped you of your professional license
- The company is facing a negative backlash as a result of your conviction
3. Why You Shouldn’t Drink and Drive: You May Go to Jail
No matter where you live in the United States, it’s illegal to drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limits. In Utah, the BAC limit is 0.05; in all other states, it’s 0.08. If you’re caught driving with a high BAC, you can be sentenced to jail.
Staying under the legal BAC limits doesn’t absolve you of other legal consequences. If you cause property damage or hurt another person, you can go to jail regardless of the breathalyzer result.
When you have kids in the car, the risk of jail time is even higher. For example, a DUI conviction in Virginia carries a mandatory five-day jail sentence if any passenger is 17 or younger. In the District of Columbia, you’ll get five days in jail for every minor who is properly restrained and ten days for every minor who is not properly restrained. In Texas, a 3rd DWI conviction is a felony that carries potential years of jail time.
4. You Could Face an Ignition Interlock Program and Other Legal Consequences
Jail time isn’t the only legal consequence of drunk driving. If you’re caught and convicted, your license is almost certain to be suspended or revoked. For example, in the District of Columbia, a first-time DUI conviction comes with mandatory six-month license revocation.
When you’re allowed to drive again, you’ll probably need to complete an ignition interlock program. Under this court-ordered program, a BAC analyzer will be installed in your vehicle. It prevents the ignition from starting until you pass a breath alcohol test.
In 30 states, the ignition interlock program is a requirement for every drunk driving offender — even if it’s your first offense. Thirteen other states require the devices for repeat offenders and/or people who have high BAC levels.
Only seven states don’t have specific ignition-interlock rules: California, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Judges in these states still have the freedom to mandate the devices.
5. Don’t Drink and Drive: The Fines Are Expensive
Drinking and driving is an expensive gamble. If you’re caught, you can face fines of up to $10,000. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first offense — states are cracking down to protect residents.
What happens if you don’t have the money to pay the fees? The courts may withhold your driver’s license until you pay. In some cases, they’ll issue a warrant for your arrest. Unpaid fines often come with late fees that add to your balance, and they might even garnish your wages.
6. Learn How to Stop Drinking and Driving, or Your Insurance Costs Will Rise
When you get your license back after a DUI/DWI conviction, the consequences keep coming. Your car insurance company will almost certainly increase your premiums. Get ready for the sticker shock — on average, insurance costs rise by 80% after a DUI. Depending on the state and the sentence, you could face a 370% price increase. Some companies won’t insure someone with a DUI, so you might have to get all-new insurance.
These higher rates usually last for a minimum of three years. If your state law allows, insurance companies will continue to charge higher rates for five to 10 additional years. Penalties for repeat offenders can be even more stringent.
7. A Criminal Record Affects Your Future
A drunk-driving conviction drops off of your driving record in three to 10 years, but it stays on your criminal record for life. Every time an employer does a background check, the DUI will come up. Depending on the industry, it can affect your ability to get a job or a professional license. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are; many employers are more likely to choose a candidate without a criminal record.
A criminal record also has a big impact on your housing options. Landlords are often hesitant to rent to people with a record. You may also find that it’s harder to get mortgages or loans if the bank runs a background check.
In a few states, it’s possible to expunge or seal the record if you meet certain conditions. California allows record-cleaning for misdemeanors if you satisfy all the terms of your probation. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, and it’s not guaranteed.
Expungement options are the exception, not the rule. Many states prohibit it while others exclude DUI records or limit the option only to juvenile offenders.
There’s no question: Driving under the influence is never worth the potential consequences. The next time you’re tempted to get behind the wheel, consider what could happen. Even if you’re not pulled over, you have the potential to hurt yourself and others. In 2020 alone, the NHTSA reported that more than 7,300 people were killed in alcohol-involved crashes. You don’t want to become a part of this statistic.
If you’re facing a conviction for driving while intoxicated, it’s important to complete all of the terms of your probation. Has a judge ordered you to enroll in an ignition interlock device program? Our team can help you navigate the requirements and find a qualified installation technician. To start the ignition interlock program process, contact us at Clear 2 Drive today.