DUIs can happen to anyone. Many people will have experienced drinking a few glasses of wine at a party and having to make the decision whether or not they can safely drive home. (Just to make it clear, you should not drive after drinking). The majority of those charged with impaired driving are male and most DUI offenders are in their early 20s. Getting a DUI can cause many long term problems for your insurance rates. You will likely face a terminated policy or much higher insurance rates in the wake of an incident. But, what happens if you make the mistake of choosing to drive under the influence of a mind altering substance? Will your insurance support you with fines or even rehabilitation costs? In this article, we’ll break down the regulations behind DUIs, the consequences of being charged with reckless driving, and how alternative insurance for DUI drivers protects those with a poor driving record.
What is a DUI?
DUI is an acronym for “driving under the influence.” In some cases, the acronym is used interchangeably with DWI, “driving while intoxicated.” Depending on where you get pulled over, these can mean the same or different infractions but always indicate that a driver is putting themselves and others at risk. If you are pulled over in a province or state that uses both terms, one will usually be specific to the abuse of alcohol while the other is used for any other drug use.
So, let’s say you get pulled over by a police officer or stop at a checkpoint. How do authorities check for signs of impairment? Until recently, officers would engage drivers in a series of questions and judge from their conversation whether there is a possibility of impairment. However, Canada passed an amendment to this procedure when they changed the nation’s criminal code following the legalization of marijuana. The new screening protocol allows officers to administer breathalyzer tests to any driver regardless of whether or not there are signs of reckless driving.
This kind of procedure works quite effectively with alcohol levels, but detecting cannabis in drivers is trickier. As marijuana becomes legal across North America, law enforcement personal are facing new challenges when issuing DUIs — here’s why. The effects of alcohol have been studied for decades, largely because of its legality. As such, we have distinctive limits and know the effects of, say three glasses of wine on a driver or a certain age and build. The same can’t be said for cannabis. Not only is there a lack of data on the actual effects of marijuana in different amounts with different concentrations of THC, there also isn’t a breathalyzer to detect it. Several prototypes have been developed, none are yet standard. The only conclusive way to detect the substance is through a blood test. So, if an officer suspects you are driving while high, they might arrest you and collect samples at a police station. Refusal to give samples can lead to penalties more severe than being charged with a DUI.
Consequences of driving with a DUI
What happens if you are charged with a DUI? Driving while impaired is a serious offence because it not only puts you in serious danger, but everyone around you. MADD Canada estimates that impaired driving kills between 1,250 and 1,500 people and injures more than 63,000 in Canada every year. The CAA has found that one fifth of 18-24 year olds have admitted to driving or being driven by a high driver.
So it’s no surprise that the penalties for high driving are severe. In Canada, there are tiers of penalties:
1st Offence: Mandatory minimum $1,000 fine and a maximum of 10 years in prison.
2nd Offence: Mandatory 30 days of jail time, maximum of 10 years in prison.
3rd Offence: Mandatory 120 days in prison and maximum sentence of 10 years.
As well as the mandatory fines and possible jail time, you will face other disciplinary action:
Driving under the influence is a criminal offence. Regardless of any pre-existing record, you will be charged with a criminal conviction and it will be recorded in your police record.
If you are charged, your license will be immediately revoked. This suspension also works on a tier system. Following your first offence, you will not be able to drive for a minimum of one year. Your second offence will see you license-less for two years, and the third time, three years. These periods can be extended.
In addition to the minimum fines incurred in an arrest, you might face additional fines between $500 and $2,000. After your first offense, you may face similar or even greater fines on top of jail time.
Higher Insurance Rates
DUIs are indicators of high risk behaviour. This will cause long term damage to your driving record. Your car insurance rates will likely rise significantly and your insurer may refuse to extend your insurance policy. This could make finding car insurance difficult for some years, and will certainly increase your potential insurance premiums.
Does car insurance cover significant exclusions?
As we’ve seen, being charged with a DUI is no small offence and leads to serious penalties. This begs the question of whether or not your car insurance will cover your fines, or help you with any other penalties. In short, the answer is no. Most insurance policies contain a section called “significant exclusions.” An auto insurance policy exclusion works to eliminate certain risks for insurance companies by limiting the circumstances under which they will help you. Insurance companies always limit their coverage when it comes to illegal activity such as driving under the influence. In many cases, especially after multiple offenses, you may be mandated to follow a rehabilitation program. This condition might be covered by your auto insurance, but will likely be covered by medical insurance. If not, there are several free state-funded programs individuals can access both from in and out of jail.
The news isn’t all bad. While your car insurance won’t cover any damages to you or your vehicle if you are found impaired, your third party liability will protect you from paying for other people. If you cause property damage or bodily injury to another person, your auto insurance will cover the costs of repairs and/or treatment. Keep in mind, this amount will be governed by your third party liability insurance cap. It’s recommended to have at least $2 million dollars in third party liability.
Having a DUI on your driving record makes you a high risk driver. While many standard insurance companies will not take on this risk for financial reasons, some insurance companies actually specialize in protecting high risk clients. This is called non-standard insurance. Non-standard insurance foregoes some of the standard checks for clients such as credit history and offer their products to drivers most likely to file a claim. Policies are often geared towards the youngest and oldest driving demographics as they tend to pose high risks to themselves and other drivers. It’s hard to estimate the size of the non-standard insurance market but it is estimated that around 35% of private passenger auto insurance is non-standard. If you are shopping on the non-standard car insurance market, the elevated risk means you should be prepared to pay higher premiums.
What should I do if I receive a DUI?
If you receive a DUI, there are steps you can take to try and take control and help you achieve the minimum penalty possible.
Seek legal council
If you are involved in an incident while driving impaired, it is important you seek legal council. A DUI lawyer is someone who specializes in handling DUI or DWI cases and will offer your representation in court if needed. The role of a DUI lawyer is to explain the charges to a client, recommend what to do next, appear in court, and deal with administrative work tied to the case. Most public defenders will have a large amount of experience with DUI cases as a significant amount of their caseload will be related to impaired driving. This is good news! This means you have a range of options for representation and it will not be a financial burden.
Get a new car insurance policy
It’s important to get insurance after a DUI as quickly as possible. A rapid return to auto insurance coverage looks good to any future insurance companies you might work with, but will also protect you in the years following the infraction from further charges if you are caught driving with inadequate car insurance.
Companies for DUI Insurance
DUI Insurance Ontario
Ontario has the largest range of non-standard car insurance providers who might provide you with insurance after a DUI. Jevco, Aviva, Travelers, Intact Insurance, Pafco, and Desjardin all offer high risk DUI insurance policies in Ontario. Although these car insurance rates are likely to be higher, it’s well worth the cost to be well protected.
DUI Insurance Alberta/ Western Canada
In Alberta and elsewhere in Western Canada, you can also choose among a series of high risk insurance providers. In provinces where Crown Corporations provide insurance, non-standard coverage is also supplied by the government. In Alberta, insurance companies like Perth Insurance and the Facility Association provide private non-standard car insurance to drivers.
There you go! For more information about non-standard coverage from your current insurance company, simply contact them. Remember, your insurance company is there to answer any and all questions about your personal safety, impaired driving, and driving record. If you wish to switch to an insurance company that specializes in high risk drivers, you can do so online or through an insurance broker who might know more about the intricacies of DUI insurance.