Guest Post by Nik Donovic
Driving under the influence of alcohol results in approximately three deaths every two hours; according to the United States Department of Transportation. In 2010, that translated to 10,228 deaths. Aside from the devastating human loss associated with drunk driving, there is also an astronomical financial toll that goes along with it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average annual national cost of drunk driving is $51 billion. Fortunately, though, the drunk drivers themselves pay out a good portion of that amount.
True Cost of a DUI
When measuring the cost of a DUI, people often only consider the fines involved, which are significant. However, state and local fines are just the tip of the iceberg. Other costs of a DUI include increased car insurance, legal fees, bail, towing fees, personal restitution, and lost wages, lost freedom, and sometimes, lost life. It’s no exaggeration to state that, depending on the circumstances, a DUI can end up costing the driver millions of dollars. Here is a breakdown of some of the real costs associated with a DUI.
Court Fees: The total court fees will depend on the state, the level of intoxication (BAC of .08% – 14.9% or 15%+, generally), and whether or not it’s the first offense. For example, in Alabama, the average DUI court fees range from $600 – $2,100 for a first time offender with a BAC of.08%, but in Tennessee, the cost ranges from $350 – $1,500.
Attorney Fees: Anyone who is arrested for a DUI should hire an attorney, though not all do. Using the previous state examples, drunk drivers may think they can’t afford a Tennessee or Alabama car accidents attorney, but without one they end up paying a lot more. Attorney fees for simple first-time DUI’s can cost an average of about $2,500. That number goes up dramatically when defending oneself against civil lawsuits.
Bail: Again, this figure differs by state, but a drunk driver can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $2,500 to bail themselves out of jail.
Towing: Without exception, there will be towing charges. If the vehicle is allowed to be picked up by a family member right away, the cost can be relatively low, at around $200. However, in most cases, immediate pick up isn’t allowed, which means the owner could end up paying $2,000 or more, depending on how many days the car is impounded.
Lost wages: There is really no average dollar figure that can be plugged in to this category. The number of days required to miss work because of jail time and court requirements varies as much as wages do. However, many people lose not only wages, but the job itself, when convicted of a DUI.
Restitution: Just as with lost wages, there is no way to put a number on restitution. The amount awarded to the victims of a drunk driver vary depending on many factors, including injuries sustained, fatalities, amount of property damage, BAC level, and whether or not the drunk driver was a repeat offender. However, juries have been known to award a victim and/or his or her family millions of dollars in restitution.
The loss of life or the ability to earn a living isn’t something that can fairly be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Neither can the loss of freedom that comes with a jail or prison sentence for those who are convicted of drunk driving. In order to avoid every cost associated with a DUI, whether it has a price tag attached to it or not, the best bet is to assign a designated driver.