The High Price of Drinking + Driving<br />

Drink responsibly and avoid the wallet drain

This time of year, when you’re out celebrating and attending holiday parties, you may be tempted to have a drink or two. It’s fine to drink—as long as you’re going to do it responsibly. But it’s not OK if you plan to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car.

Needless to say, drinking and driving is a careless act that puts you and your passengers in danger, as well as pedestrians and other drivers on the road. In a worst-case scenario, you could kill someone if you’re driving drunk and your reflexes are impaired or your judgment isn’t sharp.

That’s bad enough.

But have you ever stopped to also think about the financial consequences of driving drunk? As it turns out, there’s a mighty high price to pay for drinking and driving. If you don’t believe me, consider this data from AAA, which explains the very harsh financial penalties faced by drivers convicted of DUI.

For instance, in New Jersey, where I live, AAA reports that a person found guilty of driving under the influence faces:

  • loss of license for three months to a year
  • fines ranging from $250 to $500
  • a $230 fee to be deposited into the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
  • a $100 fee to be deposited into the drunk driving fund
  • a $100 fee to be deposited into the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund
  • a $75 fee to be deposited into the Neighborhood Services Fund
  • a $1,000 annual auto insurance surcharge for three years
  • possible imprisonment for up to 30 days
  • possible installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle operated by the offender
  • detainment in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center for 12 to 48 hours

I’ll spare you from doing the math: when you tally up all those fines and penalties, you can see that someone busted for DUI will have to fork over more than $4,000. Then there’s the whole matter of your lost income. An arrest for DUI will no doubt mean that you have take a day or more off from work in order to show up for a court hearing or consult an attorney about your rights.

And speaking of attorneys, legal representation is super-expensive these days. Depending on the state where you live and the complexity of your DUI case, your legal tab could hit anywhere from $500 to $5,000 or more.

And all because you ran up a drinking tab and then got behind the wheel of a car.

Finally, if you get thrown in jail for a month due to drunk driving, you will obviously not be taking home your regular paycheck for those 30 days. That’s another several thousand dollars worth of lost funds.

So the bottom line is this: drinking and driving can have catastrophic personal consequences, and also devastating financial ramifications. But you can avoid this sad, sorry state just by handing over the keys, calling a relative or friend for a ride, or hailing a cab whenever you’ve been drinking.

Declaring ahead of time that you absolutely will not drink and drive could be one of the smartest personal and financial decisions you’ll ever make. And it doesn’t stop there with you. If you want to spread the word to others, visit TakethePledge.AAA.com and remind your family and friends that drinking and driving don’t mix—even during the holiday season.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach and Google Plus.