It’s the holidays! That means a lot of social gatherings, holiday dinners, and family celebrations. Another hallmark of the holidays? Drinks. Whether it’s a family’s historic punch recipe, or just one more drink to help deal with that relative, a lot of Americans include alcohol in their holiday plans. December is Drunk Driving Awareness Month and while no one ever wants to be driving while under the influence, that holiday punch can creep up on you quickly. Unfortunately, those old wives tales about “one drink per hour” or “eating plenty of snacks”, are simply not true. And with the resurgence of craft brewing and artisanal cocktails, we’re seeing a much higher alcohol content in a lot of beverages. This is the perfect recipe for a DUI, as your BAC actually increases from anywhere between a half hour to 3 hours after your symptoms of impairment have begun to subside. This means you’re at the highest risk for a DUI when you feel as if the likelihood has actually decreased! So before you decide that taking an Uber or taxi home is outside of your budget, remember this: the only person who can positively determine whether or not you are over the legal limit is the Officer who pulls you over. Would you put $10,000 down on a casino table for one hand of poker? No? Order that Uber.

Do you think the $10,000 gamble is an exaggeration? Consider a $500 towing/impound fee; $1,000 fine; $500 court fee; $3,000 for a lawyer; $3,500 for your new insurance policy; $3,120 for 12 months transportation to and from work while your license is suspended. $11,620 all because you didn’t want to take a taxi? (That’s approximately what an Uber would cost to go from Philadelphia to LA and back again, including a pit-stop in Vegas!!!)

A breakdown of fines and fees in the state of Pennsylvania:

  • Fines (not including court fees):
    •  first DUI: $300 (BAC between .08-.99); $500-$5,000 (BAC .1-.149); $1,000-$5,000 (.16 or higher or under the influence of a controlled substance). For a commercial operator, the legal limit is a BAC of .04.
    • Second Offense: $300-$2,500 (BAC from .09-.99); $750-$5,000 (BAC of .10-.159); minimum $1,500 (.16/controlled substance) or higher
    • Third Offense: $500-$5,000 (BAC .08-.99); $1,500-$10,000 (BAC .10-.159); minimum $2,500 (BAC .16 or higher/controlled substance).
  • Punishments:
    • First Offense: 6 months probation, 12 month license suspension.
    • Second Offense: From 5 days to 5 years in prison, depending on your BAC. 12-18 month license suspension. Must install an ignition interlock system. May be required to attend alcohol screening or rehabilitation.
    • Third Offense: Depending on your BAC, up to 5 years in prison. A 12-18 month license suspension. Must install an ignition interlock system. May be required to attend alcohol screening and rehabilitation.
    • Refusal to Submit to a chemical test: 12-18 month suspension. Automatically considered a DUI under PA’s implied consent laws, which outline that the issuance of a PA driver’s license is an automatic agreement to undergo chemical testing at an officer’s request.
  • Hidden costs:
    • Non-renewal of your auto insurance. This removes you from being eligible for most standard carriers for a period of approximately 5 years and can double or even triple your cost of insurance. (Let’s use the low ball estimate of $3,500)
    • Between $1,900 and $4,600 for lawyer fees.
    • Loss of employment: a suspended license can lead to loss of a job, loss of eligibility for various employers (including child and health care, government positions and civil service)
    • Loss of livelihood: employment ineligibility may render a college degree unusable, for example an elementary education degree.
    • Increasing costs of repairs: Added safety features and alternative materials have caused steep spikes in the cost of auto repairs.
    • Liability payments: You can be found liable for damages if the drunk driving involves other parties. Potential costs include but are not limited to: bodily injury payments and property damage. In the US, the average broken arm could be around $16,000.
    • A parent, significant other or child can also sue in the event their loved one is injured or killed. This includes specific costs like loss of income or increased costs of care. But it can also include dollar amounts assigned to perceived losses of quality of life.

Many restaurants offer special discounts for patrons who choose to use a ride sharing app or have a designated driver. Some celebrities even have promotional contracts with services like Lyft where users can receive free ride credits by referencing their promotional code. If you or someone you know seems to be struggling this holiday season, consider contacting a healthcare professional. Whitford Insurance Network wants to make sure that decorated houses are the only flashing lights you see this holiday season: Don’t drink and drive.