MADD continues to attack law-abiding drivers by pushing for forced compliance with DUI laws. When will they stop getting the government to do their bidding and trampling on the freedoms of law abiding citizens?
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Having just one more green beer or shot of Irish whiskey won’t cost you too much, right? Well, if that last dance with the bottle on St. Paddy’s Day leads to an unlucky DUI conviction, you’ll be paying for it for years to come.
And that’s only considering the potential financial cost of being ticketed for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, better known as DUI or DWI. It’ll take even longer to get past the staggering financial blow if you cause an accident — or the emotional devastation if your actions cause injuries or worse.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 134 fatal accidents on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008, the last year for which data are available, and 50 of those involved at least one driver who was legally drunk at the time of the crash. That means 37 percent of the drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above.
One drink too many puts you at risk not only for an arrest, but also for fees, fines and costs that can run you thousands of dollars. While a DUI or DWI may be a misdemeanor charge in a number of jurisdictions, it’s a matter that most judges and district attorneys take very seriously. The financial toll of a conviction will play out for years to come, and in many states, that can add up to $20,000 before everything is over. This includes bail, fines, legal fees, increased auto insurance premiums, loss of work income, court-ordered alcohol education programs and more.
Of course, if you get fired from your job as a result of the arrest, that dollar figure would skyrocket.
Potential expenses from a DUI — first offense
You don’t even have to get convicted to start running up expenses on a DUI charge. But if you’re found guilty, a first offense could mean that last drink cost you dearly. While the amounts vary by location and specific circumstances, here are some of the expenses you may realize:
•Loss of job
•Temporary loss of income
•Car towing, impounding.
•Alternate transportation costs.
•Car ignition interlock device.
•Periodic blood testing
•Monthly monitoring fees.
•Cost of incarceration
•Increased auto insurance premiums.
The financial impact of a DUI arrest on any one person can vary greatly depending on many factors, such as driving record, jurisdiction, blood-alcohol level, attorney fees and fines, not to mention the specific circumstances of the incident and whether there was an accident or if anyone was injured.
The Texas Department of Transportation says a June 2006 survey in that state showed the total costs of a DWI arrest and conviction for a first-time offender with no accident involved would range from $9,000 to $24,000.
And while expenses can vary substantially by jurisdiction, in no city is a DUI charge cheap.
In 2000, when graduate student Kate S. was driving home from a party in Woodstock, Ga., she was involved in an accident. She was not found to be at fault for the mishap, but blood tests at the hospital later revealed she was over the legal alcohol limit and she was booked on a DUI charge. Some costs Kate had to pay included a $2,500 fine, approximately $3,000 in legal fees and insurance premiums that rose an additional $600 per year for the next five years.
“As part of my sentence, I had to go to what they call ‘DUI school,’ and one of the things we had to do was tally up how much it cost you. I came up with about $13,000 in all,” says Kate.
Donald Ramsell, an Illinois attorney, says legal fees can vary from as little as $2,500 to as high as $10,000, even for a first offender.
Ramsell says that many people are quickly arrested and charged with DUI regardless of whether proof exists.
A good attorney is needed, he says, to explore multiple areas of an alleged infraction, including driving behaviors, personal behaviors and the results of chemical tests. And while rarely cheap, a good attorney may help offset other costs.
Ramsell says fines for a first offender in Illinois are up to $2,500 along with “special penalties” costs that can run another $1,500. Mandatory DWI school can cost between $1,500 and $2,500, then there’s a suspension reinstatement fee of $250 to get a license back.
Ramsell says auto insurance could also increase by $5,000 to $10,000 over the next five years. A 2006 fact book published by the Illinois Secretary of State estimated the cost of a DUI conviction to be $14,660, but Ramsell says that could be much higher.
“It just keeps adding and adding. These are just your straight-up out-of-pocket expenses before you start to consider lost income. Some companies will fire you because their own insurance company will not allow someone with a DWI to work for them,” says Ramsell. The threat of lost income during incarceration or even losing a job altogether is a real possibility. If a job includes driving for a living, termination is almost guaranteed, but nowadays, many companies will fire convicted DUI offenders.
Lawrence Koplow, a Phoenix attorney, says his state not only socks DUI offenders with high fines, but they’re also billed for their own cost of incarceration that can run $165 for the first day and $60 each day thereafter. Fines in Arizona can run from $1,400 to $2,000, and a recent law requires “extreme” and “aggravated” DUI offenders, even first-timers, to have an interlock device installed on their vehicle. Similar to a Breathalyzer, the device prevents the vehicle from being started if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration that is too high. The cost of the device, which can run up to $200 to install and $80 per month, is also billed to the offender.
“A DUI is a tremendous financial burden. There are just so many costs that go along with it. A first-time offender here could be looking at $7,000 to $12,000,” says Koplow.
In order to educate drivers on the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol, many jurisdictions publicize the total estimated costs of DUI convictions.
Erie County, N.Y., estimates a DUI conviction in their county to cost about $9,500; in Kentucky, it can run about $10,000; and according to the Texas Safety Network, a DUI in the Lone Star state can run almost $8,000. But if there’s a child younger than 15 years old in the car during the incident, you can face an additional $10,000 in fines, plus 180 days to two years in jail.
Finally, all of this assumes no property damage or personal injury resulted while the driver was under the influence. An offender’s insurance may not cover certain costs related to damages from an accident when blood alcohol content was over the limit. In Kate S.’s DUI conviction, she was also sued by a property owner for $1,200 in landscaping fees that her insurance did not cover.
“I never would have thought I would have gotten a DUI and I had no idea how much it cost. I’m your quintessential good girl, too. I didn’t have that much to drink either, just enough to put me over the limit,” says Kate. “It’s a real financial burden.”
Determined to stop people from texting while driving, the Obama administration plans a campaign similar to past government efforts to discourage drunken driving and encourage the use of seat belts. The administration planned to offer recommendations to address the growing safety risk of distracted drivers, especially the use of mobile devices to send messages from behind the wheel.
“We can really eliminate texting while driving. That should be our goal,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, declining to provide specifics of the recommendations. Researchers, safety groups, automakers and lawmakers gathered for a second day to discuss the perils of distracted driving, hearing government data that underscored the safety threat as more motorists stay connected with cell phones and mobile devices.
The Transportation Department reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction, often by mobile devices and cell phones. LaHood called distracted driving a “menace to society” and said the administration would offer a series of recommendations Thursday to encourage Congress, state governments and the public to curb the unsafe behavior. He said the government would draw from past efforts to reduce drunken driving and encourage motorists to wear seat belts. Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said support was building in Congress to ban text messaging by drivers. Their legislation would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. “No text message is so urgent that it’s worth dying over,” Klobuchar told participants.
The government reported that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 were injured last year in crashes where at least one form of driver distraction was reported. Driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was prevalent among young drivers. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal and seven states and the District have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Many safety groups have urged a nationwide ban on using handheld mobile devices while behind the wheel.
The conference attracted families of victims of accidents caused by distracted driving, who urged the government to take a strong stance against cell phone use in vehicles, whether it includes a hands-free device or not. They suggested technologies that prevent the mobile device from receiving e-mails or phone calls while the vehicle is in motion could help address the problem. “We started driving cars about 100 years ago. We started using phones about 80 years ago. We’ve only really combined those two activities to a great degree in the last five or 10 years. We’re finding out they don’t mix,” said David Teater of Spring Lake, Mich., whose 12-year-old son, Joe, was killed in a 2004 crash when a driver using a cell phone ran a red light.
Some researchers cautioned that banning all cell phone use by drivers would undermine the development of safety technologies that could allow vehicles to share traffic information with other vehicles and alert emergency responders to crashes.
Our blog has reached its one year anniversary. We have posted quite a few interesting news items about DUI and related issues.
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Washington, DC.Â AprilÂ 8 â€” President Barack Obama has chosen a top official with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lead a Transportation agency that oversees safety and fuel efficiency requirements for automakers.
Chuck Hurley was nominated Wednesday to become administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hurley, a longtime safety advocate, has served as MADDâ€™s chief executive officer since 2005 and worked for the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
At MADD, Hurley urged states to adopt tougher drunken driving laws and require first-time offenders to use ignition interlock devices on their cars. The devices require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures alcohol and prevent a vehicle from starting if the driverâ€™s blood alcohol concentration exceeds a certain levelâ€¦
The organization has received funding from several auto companies, including General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others. The General Motors Foundation provided MADD and MADD-related programs with $133,000 in grants in 2007, according to financial records filed with the IRS.
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MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), though I don’t know anyone who is in favor of drunk driving has proposed mandatory placement of ignition interlock devices on new vehicles in the U.S.
Toyota, GM and Saab already have these devices near completion for installation at the factories:
Tokyo- Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corp. will develop a system to stop a vehicle if it detects the driver is drunk as part of efforts to cope with a serious social problem, a report said on Wednesday.
The system, expected to become available in 2009, analyzes sweat on the palms of the driverâ€™s hands to assess blood alcohol content and would then not allow the vehicle to be started if the reading was above safety limits, the Asahi Shimbun said. The system would also analyze the driverâ€™s eye movement, driving performance and other factors, the Asahi said.
European automakers have developed systems that require the driver to blow into a tube attached to a vehicle to detect alcohol in the breath. Toyota opted not to use that system as it may fail if the driver asks another person to blow into the tube, the Asahi said.
Toyota rival Nissan Motor said last year it was planning similar steps.
From CBS News:
You have a few drinks, climb behind the wheel of your car, turn the key and â€” nothing. The engine doesn’t turn over, the car doesn’t move.
If Mothers Against Drunk Driving has its way, a device that checks a driver’s alcohol levels will be mandatory in cars owned by anyone ever convicted of drunk driving, and, eventually, every automobile.
New Mexico already has such a law.
MADD, backed by a national association of state highway officials and car manufacturers, is announcing a campaign to change drunken driving laws in the other 49 states to require such devices for first-time offenders.
“We’ll focus on that problem of separating the drunk driver from the vehicle,” MADD president Glynn Birch told CBS Radio News.
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