The Extraordinary Rising Costs of Driving Drunk
Life + Money

The Extraordinary Rising Costs of Driving Drunk


As if you need another reason not to drink and drive.

People who are charged with drinking under the influence can expect their car insurance rates to skyrocket.

An adult who receives a citation for a DUI can expect their car insurance to shoot up by more than $813 annually, according to a NerdWallet report. Teenagers face a much costlier consequence – their individual car insurance rate can spike by more than $2,398 a year.

  • In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,149 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2013, 200 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2012, over 1.3 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. 
  • Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.
Source: Centers for Disease Control

Related: The Shocking Secret About How Your Car Insurance Rate Gets Set

Some states have even harsher insurance penalties for teens. In Michigan, rates can go up by $6,299, while in Kentucky and Connecticut they can increase by $4,711 and $4,337 respectively.

Insurance rates will remain elevated for three to five years, but over time, the amount will decrease, according to Maxime Rieman, an insurance associate at NerdWallet.

Also worth noting is that some states, like Illinois and Louisiana, have zero-tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21. This means that minors with any alcohol found in their system can be charged with DUI, but adults generally must have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent to be charged.

Although there are other legal consequences outside of higher insurance rates that teenagers and adults can face for driving under the influence, “the baseline of ramifications is significantly higher for teens,” Rieman says.

A teen will most likely have their licenses suspended for three to six months, but the time period will vary based on the state. They might also face a probationary period, be forced to pay a fine, endure jail time, be required to perform community service or attend alcohol education or safe-driving classes.

Related: When Buying Car Insurance, Young Drivers Should Stick with Mom and Dad

For adults, the repercussions depend on how much over the legal blood alcohol limit the driver was, Rieman says. Adults can sometimes get away with just a ticket, attending driving classes or other minor punishments.   

Drunk driving isn’t the only infraction that will cause insurance rates to shoot up. For teens caught speeding 11 to 15 mph over the legal limit, their car insurance will jump by an average of $692 more. For adults with a single ticket, the rates would increase by an average of $209 more a year.