The Consequences of Drinking and Driving

Despite significant improvements over the past 20 years or so, drinking and driving remains a serious social problem, in Canada and around the world.   MADD Canada estimates that between 1200 and 1500 people are killed annually as a result of drug or alcohol related accidents and it's believed that drinking and driving is affects the lives of approximately 70,000 people in Canada each year.

Insurance Costs

The effect of drinking and driving on your car insurance premium is dramatic.   A 19 year old driver convicted of drinking and driving can expect to pay between $12,000 and $20,000 per year for insurance depending on whether or not they were involved in an accident as a result while a convicted 40 year old can expect to pay $7,000 to $11,000 annually.

Legal Ramifications

Driving while intoxicated is a Criminal Code conviction and it stays on your record for 6 years.   If you are caught, you will receive an automatic license suspension which stays on your insurance record for a total of six years.   Even if you win your case in court, this license suspension stays on your record and continues to affect your auto insurance premiums.

If you're charged with impaired driving, you'll have to go to court at least twice.   The first time, usually the next business day, you'll be charged officially with the offence.   After 90 days your license is typically returned, however the court case can drag on for long after that, depending on the specifics of your situation.   If you are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, you will face the following penalties:

  • For a first conviction, there is a minimum fine of $600, in addition to a 12 month license suspension and a further 12 months of being required to use an ignition interlock device.   An ignition interlock device is a device mounted near the ignition of your car which requires you to provide a breath sample to start the car and then another breath sample at periodic intervals while the car is in operation.   The goal of the device is to physically prevent you from operating the vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol.
  • For a second conviction, you'll face a minimum of 14 days in jail, as well as a 3 year license suspension and two further years of requiring an ignition interlock device to drive.
  • For a third or subsequent conviction, the penalty is a minimum of 90 days in jail, and a lifetime driving suspension which you can apply for reinstatement after 10 years if you choose.

The Back on Track Program

In addition to the penalties above, if you are convicted of impaired driving in Ontario, you will be required to participate in the Back on Track Program.   The Back on Track Program begins with a one hour assessment, and based on this assessment, you'll be referred to either the Education Program or the Treatment Program.

The Education Program teaches participants:

1.       Myths and Facts related to drugs and alcohol.

2.       How alcohol and drugs affect your ability to drive safely.

3.       The legal and personal consequences of impaired driving.

4.       How to avoid drinking and driving in the future.

The Treatment Program involves:

1.       Learning why people use drugs and alcohol and the affects of these substances on their lives.

2.       Learning to take responsibility for your drug and alcohol use.

3.       Committing to reduce or eliminate your use of drugs and alcohol.

4.       Strategies and skills for managing stress and anger.

5.       Communication and lifestyle strategies.

6.       Plans to avoid a relapse.

7.       How to avoid drinking and driving in the future.

To pass this program, you must:

1.       Be drug and alcohol free each day that you attend the program.

2.         Attend all sessions on time.

3.       Participate in all program activities and demonstrate that you have learned from your experiences.

4.       Treat all others in the program with respect.

You must complete the program during the time that your driver's license is suspended.   If you require more time to finish the program, you license suspension will be extended until it has been completed.

Financial Ramifications

Impaired driving convictions can prove to be extremely expensive.   Here are some of the costs you can expect to pay following a DUI conviction:

  • A minimum $600 fine for a Criminal Code conviction.
  • A $150 fee for the reinstatement of your driver's license.
  • $125 fee for installation of the ignition interlock device, as well as fees of about $100 per month for monitoring and recalibration.
  • $578 for the Back on Track program.
  • $300-400 typically for bail if necessary, though you will likely get this money back when your case is finished.
  • As mentioned, your car insurance rates could rise to as high as $20,000 per year depending on your age and the severity of your case.There are devastating personal, legal, and financial costs associated with drinking and driving.   With many easily accessible options to choose from, including taking a cab, using public transit, having a designated driver, etc, there's no need to or excuse for drinking and driving.   Being caught driving under the influence will undoubtedly have a significant impact on your car insurance rates - raising them exponentially, and possibly making you an uninsurable, high risk driver in the eyes of your insurance provider.   Avoid these consequences and stay safer on the road by choosing not to drink and drive.