Even if no one is injured and no property is damaged, a DWI has lasting consequences for the offender. After the fine is paid, after the alcohol assessment and treatment, even after the ignition interlock period has been installed, used and removed, anyone who has been caught driving drunk faces long-term problems, of which one of the most disagreeable is the rise in insurance rates.
Take North Carolina, which places the highest burden of all on convicted drunk drivers: a jump in car insurance rates of 337%.
Some offenders ask their attorneys or insurance brokers if installing an ignition interlock before being required to will result in a lower insurance rate. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
The answer is usually no. In some states a discount is possible, and it’s worth mentioning to the insurance company to see if that will help, but the practice is not yet widespread.
But it should be.
Insurance rates go up after a DWI because the driver is deemed a higher risk. In fact, some companies will not insure anyone with drunk driving on their record. But an interlock device immediately lowers that risk. Studies show that drivers who have an interlock installed are much less likely to reoffend.
If insurance companies were to offer lower rates for DWI offenders with an ignition interlock, it would provide these benefits:
- It would boost the incentive for non-compliant offenders to install the mandated interlocks.
- Since high insurance rates lasts for at least 3 years after a DWI, offenders could be given the option of a longer interlock term. Keeping the device for the time during which insurance would be safer for everyone.
Legislators, law enforcement, and road safety organizations have been working on ways to reduce drunk driving, with a lot of success. Insurance companies could bring the number of alcohol-related crashes down even more by offering a break to drivers who use an interlock.