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It’s easy to confuse a DUI with DWI as the exact definition can vary by state. But both are serious traffic offenses that can have a major impact on your car insurance. Driving under the influence and driving under the influence of a disability or intoxication will ultimately be a financial burden, no matter what the acronym means where you live.
“Insurers’ pricing is based on your driving data, so if you have accidents or motor vehicle violations, you pay more,” says Birny Birnbaum, an insurance expert and executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, a consumer advocacy group.
Could be intoxicated or disabled behind the wheel increase your rate according to a study by Martindale-Nolo Research averaging $ 800 per year.
Not only can it increase your auto insurance premium, but it also puts you and others on the road at risk and has additional financial and legal consequences. The same study found that the total average cost for a first DUI violation is $ 6,500.
Let’s take a look at the differences between a DUI and DWI in general – and how it can affect your auto insurance.
DUI vs DWI
Since there is no nationwide definition, each state has its own set of laws and conditions for DWIs and DUIs. Some consider DWI and DUI to be one and the same, while other states define them as two separate violations.
In general, DUI means ‘drunk driving’. In other words, a driver with a certain level of alcohol in their bloodstream can be charged with a DUI.
The federal government’s blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08%, but different states have different limits on their legal BAC levels. For example, New Jersey charges a driver a DUI if his BAC level is above 0.01% and he is under the age of 21. In some cases, you can be charged with a DUI or DWI if you fail a field sobriety test, even with a BAC below the state legal limit.
DWI usually means ‘drunk driving’, but some states define it as ‘drunk driving’. If that’s the case where you live, there is no difference between a DUI and DWI. But if your state does recognize a DWI as another violation, it generally refers to driving while you are on drugs, either prescription or recreational.
How does a DWI or DUI affect your car insurance?
Regardless of the specific definitions, a DUI or DWI charge means someone engaged in risky and dangerous behavior while driving. And auto insurance companies don’t like that.
Here are a few ways that a DWI or DUI will affect your auto insurance.
Your rates are likely to increase
If you have these three letters on your driver’s license, insurers will likely consider you a high-risk driver and your car insurance could go up significantly.
The amount by which your premiums increase is affected by your insurer and your location, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars more than usual.
“We want a rating system that not only encourages consumers to drive safely and avoid risky behavior, but also provides clear price signals on how to invest in safety,” said Birnbaum.
If you’ve been convicted with a DUI or DWI, consider talking to an independent insurance agent instead of contacting your insurer directly. An independent insurance agent can advise you to keep your car premium low without affecting your policy.
Your insurer can rip you off
Your insurer can’t legally cancel your policy when they feel like it, but it’s a different story when it comes time to renew your policy. If you’ve been charged with a DWI or DUI, your insurance could refuse to keep you as a customer once your current policy expires, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Then you should find another auto insurance company willing to insure you with a DUI on your record – but your rates are likely to go up no matter who provides your car coverage.
You may need to archive an SR-22, FR-44 or FR-19
After a serious traffic violation, such as DUI or DWI, your state may ask you to submit a specific form before you can get back on the road. SR-22For example, FR-44 and FR-19 forms prove to your state’s carrier that you have adequate auto insurance to drive safely. These forms are primarily for high-risk drivers and are usually submitted on your behalf by the insurance company or agency.
You could have higher premiums for a while
Depending on where you live and your insurance company, you can get a premium increase for several years. In some states, your premium will stay inflated as long as a DUI or DWI remains on your driving record.
Check your state’s laws to see how long a DUI can remain on your driving record, and ask your insurer about the driving record lookback period. Typically, a DUI drops your driving record after five years, but it can take longer, possibly 10 years or more. Certain states such as Texas and Oregon will keep it on your registry forever.
But as long as you practice safe driving in the years following a DUI or DWI, you will eventually see your rates drop again.
“You want your premiums not only to be fair,” says Birnbaum, “but they should also encourage consumers to drive safely.”
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