Driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated is illegal in every state in the United States. DUI and DWI are serious offenses. A first-time conviction can mean stiff penalties, suspension of your license, incarceration, home monitoring, community service, mandatory classes, and more. There are five facts that every teen should know to ensure that they stay safe on the road and respect all the rules.
Why Are There DUI and DWI Laws?
DUI/DWI laws are public safety laws. In other words, these laws are there to protect the public from risky behavior and injury, and to reduce the number of car accidents that occur each year that are alcohol-related. According to the CDC, about 65% of car accidents involve drugs or alcohol.
What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI
Most people associate a DUI or a DWI with alcohol. The fact is driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated are not exclusive to alcohol. If you are driving high on marijuana or any other drug (both legal and illegal) you can be charged with this type of driving offense.
For example, if you are taking prescription medication that clearly states “do not operate heavy machinery or drive when taking this medication”, you should stay home and off the roads. If there is an accident, you can be charged with either a DUI or a DWI. Staying home and off the roads is the best way to avoid a problem.
There is something referred to as a baby DUI in legal circles that specifically affects teens. You do not have to be intoxicated over the legal limit to be charged with a DUI. For example, in California (and most other states) the legal limit for alcohol when driving is 0.08%. As an underage driver, the alcohol limit is 0%. That means, as a teen driver, because you are not old enough to buy alcohol, you cannot consume alcohol at all. Even if you drink a beer and are pulled over, you will be charged with a DUI.
A baby DUI will automatically suspend your license in most states and, depending on your age, you may be banned from getting a driver’s license until you are “of age”. You may have to wait until you are 21 depending on the situation and whether you are convicted of underage drinking.
To Blow or Not To Blow
Let’s say you are driving home one night and are stopped at a DUI checkpoint. You have not been drinking and find it annoying that the officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, so you refuse. Refusing to test can mean an automatic one-year suspension of your license. In many states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (the responsible agency for issuing driver’s licenses) have rules in place that they enforce when it comes to refusing to participate in a DUI check.
Additionally, you will likely be given a ticket on the spot even if you are 15 feet from home, which you will have to go to court to fight. You may fight and win the ticket, but the DMV may still not be compelled to restore your license.
DUI’s Are Costly
Rushing to get home may result in a speeding ticket. You will have to pay a fine and some court costs, or you may be able to fight the ticket and pay nothing. A DUI, on the other hand, is not quite as simple. On average, the cost of a DUI is about $5000. Additionally, if there is an accident because of driving under the influence or while intoxicated, the cost can skyrocket. According to the New York State Department of Transportation, car accidents on the low end cost about $15,000; on the high end of things, an accident can cost about $63000. Typically, costs will fall into the $30,000 to $40,000 price range.
Here is something important every teen should know. Having insurance does not mean an accident will be covered if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident. Insurance companies have the right to deny the claim. Your parent’s home could be at risk and everything else they own if an accident is not paid for through the insurance company.
The bottom line is no one should be driving under the influence. It is important that every driver takes DUI and DWI seriously.