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CONTRIBUTED CONTENT: Do you know the true cost of drunk driving?

Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 31, 2019

With New Year’s Eve tonight, there will be toasts around Las Vegas and across the United States. But alcohol-consuming revelers should stay off the road, Las Vegas’ Shook & Stone law firm warns; driving drunk can have major costs, both fiscal and emotional.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 29 people in the United States die every day in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes. The CDC estimated the annual cost of U.S. alcohol-related crashes exceeds $44 billion.

The nonprofit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation puts the cost of drunk driving in the United States even higher, at $132 billion annually.

The institute estimated, based on data from court records, insurance companies, statistical tracking institutes and government agencies, that a first-time offender stopped for DUI can have his or her driver’s license suspended for three months and incur up to $15,000 in costs, including $6,000 in increased insurance premiums, $2,000 for an interlocking ignition device, and more than $1,000 each for fines, remedial education, relicensing and legal fees.

The costs are higher if injury and property damage is involved, the Pacific Institute report estimated, and might exceed $1 million after accounting for more than $90,000 for medical costs and more than $200,000 for legal costs and more than $50,000 in vehicle repairs for the drunk driver and the cars he or she hit.

Here’s an itemized cost breakdown for first-time DUI offenders in Nevada:

Bail - $2,000
Lawyer - $1,750
Fine - $685
DUI school - $250
VIP - $65
Coroner’s DUI - $200
Ignition interlock - $600 (total for six months)
SR-22 (a vehicle liability insurance document required by most state Department of Motor Vehicles offices for “high-risk) insurance policies- $900 (three years at $25 per month)
Total $6,250

Empirically, a 1998 article in the journal for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found, the estimated cost per DWI vehicle mile, adjusted for inflation, was $9.79 compared with 18 cents per sober mile. The consumer news website Nerdwallet estimated it can take up to a decade for insurance rates to recover at a DUI conviction. In California, for example, a driver loses eligibility for a good driver discount for 10 years after a DUI conviction, Nerdwallet reported.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Organization estimated that 10,511 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2018, up 0.1 percent from 10,497 in 2016.

The 10,497 people who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2016, accounted for 28 percent of all U.S. traffic-related deaths, the CDC estimated. For that year, the CDC said, 1 million drivers were arrested for DUI.

“Giving up the keys when you’re drunk won’t just save you a ton of money,” partner John Shook said, “It can save lives.”

Article written by Shook & Stone law firm of Las Vegas.