The Most Dangerous Cities: DUIs, Death and Your Insurance

Everyone knows that DUIs have a high price, both personal and financial. Not only do alcohol-related accidents kill thousands of people – 10,322 in 2012 – but they cost about $199 billion per year. Betweenlegal and insurance penalties, those convicted of drunk driving pay a high price, too –but how much?In a recent study, NerdWallet analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita in the 150 largest cities. We then compared it to our own data on insurance premiums for drivers convicted of DUIs, and came to a surprising conclusion.

Because laws and insurance premiums vary from city to city and state to state, drivers convicted of a DUI in Omaha won’t find themselves facing the same consequences as those convicted of a DUI in Detroit. However, the cities where drunk driving is the most fatal are often not those in which drivers face the most severe insurance consequences.  What cities see the most fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita?

California drivers cause more than their share of fatal alcohol-related crashes, with four cities in the state in the top 10. The South also ranks high, with Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee all contributing a city. The complete top 10, based on NHTSA data, is as follows:

  • San Bernardino, California
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Riverside, California
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Lubbock, Texas
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Fresno, California
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Sacramento, California
  • Little Rock, Arkansas

Of these, San Bernardino takes the top spot by far, with a rate of 0.4368 fatal alcohol-related crashes per 1,000 residents between 2010 and 2012. This is 1.5 times the rate of the next city on the list, and nearly six times the national average (0.0731). The other cities in the top 10 also see substantially higher fatality rates than the national numbers. Mobile has four times more fatal alcohol-related crashes than the national average, and Knoxville has nearly three times as many. Even Little Rock’s rate of fatal alcohol-related crashes is almost twice the national average.

How much do drivers pay for drunk driving?

Everyone agrees that drunk drivers should be punished severely. In many states, those convicted of drunk driving receive an automatic license suspension or revocation, and once they are able to drive again, they’ll pay higher insurance premiums. Nationally, the average driver convicted of a DUI will experience a 75.3% premium increase. This works out to $857.53 in dollar terms each year. The exact increase, though, varies greatly between states and cities. A driver in San Bernardino will pay about 135.06% more per year for car insurance after a DUI ($1,282.43), while a driver in Omaha will only pay 3.76% more ($45.26).

In some cases, cities with high rates of fatal alcohol-related crashes also have high insurance increases. For example, drivers in the four most dangerous California cities for DUIs see an average increase of more than 100% in their car insurance after a DUI. Riverside drivers see the largest increase, at about 140.16%, and San Bernardino drivers see the smallest, at a still-whopping 135.06%.

Every other city in the top 10 experiences below-average insurance increases for DUIs, with Tulsa’s increases being the lowest. Those convicted of a DUI in Tulsa get a 42.34% premium hike, from about $1,472.03 to about $2,095.36. That said, Tulsa has higher insurance premiums for safe drivers than some other states in the top 10. In other cases, a relatively low increase comes on top of a relatively low base rate. Spokane drivers with a DUI will pay 55.58% more for car insurance, resulting in an average premium of $1,298.96 – less than a safe driver in Tulsa.

The bottom line

Drivers should avoid drinking and driving because it is dangerous. But if danger is not enough to deter potential drunk drivers, they should think about the possible financial ramifications of drunk driving. Even though drivers face smaller car insurance hikes in some cities than others, the overall financial burden will still be hefty. A drunk driving arrest and conviction can cost up to $24,000—that’s a lot of money for one mistake.

Washington State Prepares for More Marijuana DUIs

Washington is one of two states that permit recreational use, sale and purchase of marijuana. Colorado and Washington both legalized marijuana in 2012, and each state has faced unique challenges to safely implement the law. Though Colorado has been permitting marijuana sales and purchase since January 1, 2014, Washington did not start licensing marijuana retailers for pot sales until July 2014. Experts within the state believe Washington pot shops will quickly run out of product, with many unable to deliver to the thousands of customers waiting in long lines on opening day. Marijuana sales are expected to offer a boon to Washington’s economy, though an uptick in sales may be slow due to licensing red tape.

Police Preparing for “High” Drivers

As state residents gear up for legal high times, law enforcement across Washington State are preparing for a likely increase of DUIs due to marijuana. Officers claim that marijuana-related DUIs increased after voters approved home growing and use in 2012. Now users are no longer restricted to backyard pot, and can also legally buy from local weed shops. Police fear that an increase of use due to the now-legal sales will lead to more Washington drivers getting behind the wheel while impaired by marijuana. Officials also fear that drivers will confuse the law legalizing pot with laws banning driving under the influence of the drug.

DUI in Washington

In Washington, a driver may be charged with DUI if “he or she is found to be driving a vehicle under the influence [of]…any drug…[and] starting August 1, 2012, the definition of a drug also includes any chemical inhaled or ingested for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.” If convicted in court, the driver may face harsh penalties including fines up to $5,000, driver’s license suspension, and possibly jail time. While the state’s DUI laws clearly indicate that drivers impaired by the use of marijuana could face charges, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission is determined that drivers get the message.

As of July 1, 2014, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission has launched a campaign warning drivers against operating a motor vehicle while high. The campaign features multiple humorous commercials that were created by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2014 to promote a similar message. These commercials warn drivers about the charges they could face if driving under the influence. In addition to these TV spots, the Commission is working with local law enforcement to increase patrols specifically monitoring drug-impaired drivers. Training law enforcement to spot high drivers was also a strategy borrowed from Colorado’s campaign to discourage drug use while driving.

Courtney Popp, the Washington State Traffic Resource prosecutor, has been working closely with police to ensure officers are properly trained to spot a driver’s drug impairment. Popp believes that as more shops receive licenses to sell weed, the state will see a rise in marijuana-related DUIs. Right now, residents and law enforcement alike are navigating fairly uncharted waters when it comes to legal marijuana use. As legalized use continues to increase, impaired drivers will quickly learn that, even though recreational use is legal, driving under the influence can still lead to criminal charges.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for Anelli Xavier are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  Attorney Advertising.


Proposed NFL Rule Would Suspend Players for DUIs/DWIs

The NFL is in talks with the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) to potentially expand the league’s drug policy. Several new changes are expected, and the most highly contested is testing players for human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs. In addition to these hot button issues, the league wants to impose stronger penalties on players for DUIs or DWIs. Current policy requires a player to forego two game checks after a first-time DUI or DWI offense. The proposed change would penalize players by requiring a one-game suspension in addition to one game check. The NFL hopes the proposed steeper penalty would provide greater incentive for players to decrease substance abuse and drunk driving incidents.

It is no surprise the NFL is trying to implement the suspension policy. For years, an increase in players’ DUI/DWI offenses has been a public source of embarrassment for the NFL. More importantly, the number of players injured or having risked injury to others has alarmed the NFL, as well as the general public. In a 2012 USA Today poll, reports revealed that since 2000 approximately 28% of player arrests were DUI arrests. With so many reports of players driving while drunk or impaired, the NFL and NFLPA have enacted multiple programs designed to prevent players from driving while impaired or intoxicated. In 2013, the league partnered with Uber, a car service company, to provide players with a transport program to avoid future DUI/DWs. Highlighting the organization’s DUI/DWI woes, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a memo in June 2012 specifically warning players and staff about the dangers and public perception of DUI/DWIs.

Unfortunately, the number of player arrests for DUI/DWI or related charges does not seem to be decreasing. The NFL still has a fairly lax policy regarding a player’s DUI/DWI arrest, and cannot suspend a player even for being convicted of a DUI or DWI. However, the NFL does not just need to worry about players’ DUI/DWIs, but coaches, owners, and other staff as well. In early 2014, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested for a DUI, and the Director of Player Personnel with the Denver Broncos was convicted and sentenced for drunk driving in May 2014. Some critics believe that the NFL has created a culture where alcohol abuse and drunk or impaired driving is not only tolerated, but also completely permissible.

The NFL is facing a tough road ahead. While league executives, some players, and other staff recognize a need to decrease DUI/DWI incidents, both for safety and public perception, it will be difficult to enact the proposed DUI/DWI suspension rule. The NFL and NFLPA must come to an agreement under their collective bargaining policies. If the policy is passed, there is no clear indication how players will react, or whether the rule change will have the desired effect. Some players advocate for the rule change, but others believe criminal penalties and two game checks serves as punishment enough. Moreover, it is unclear whether the proposed rule would help the NFL reverse its reputation as a DUI/DWI-tolerant organization.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for Anelli Xavier are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  Attorney Advertising.

WY Supreme Court Ruling Could Change DUI Procedures

The Wyoming Supreme Court recently issued a ruling overturning a felony DUI conviction, stating the evidence used in the trial had been unconstitutionally obtained. Samuel Snell was charged and convicted of a felony DUI after crashing his truck in July 2012.  He had previously been convicted of three DUIs, so the 2012 charge was charged as a felony under state law. What would have been a fairly typical felony DUI case turned into a State Supreme Court case that could impact future DUI cases throughout Wyoming.

The case’s odd circumstances were the focal point of the Supreme Court’s decision. After the July 2012 crash, which was witnessed by a neighbor, police claimed that Snell fled the scene. Police investigated the crash, and eventually located Snell at a relative’s home. Upon finding Snell, officers observed injuries consistent with the crash the witness had described, and they also noticed the odor of alcohol. Police then administered a sobriety test, which Snell failed, and attempted to administer a breathalyzer test. Snell refused the breathalyzer test, which would have immediately revealed his blood alcohol content level. Following the refusal, officers then tried to get a warrant to draw his blood for an alcohol blood test. 

This routine procedure fell off track based on what the arresting officer wrote in the warrant request, delivered on a standardized form. The officer’s affidavit requesting the warrant read: “[Snell] ran away from a traffic crash in which his vehicle rolled on a county road and ended on its side on a property not belonging to the driver. Upon contact with the driver, I detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath.” The warrant was granted based on the affidavit language. The blood test revealed Snell had a BAC of 0.21%, and he was later convicted of a felony DUI and sentenced to two to four years in state prison.

Snell’s attorney argued to the Supreme Court that the vague language in the warrant request made it seem as though Snell had been discovered at the scene of the accident, thus giving officers enough probable cause to think he had in fact been driving under the influence.  In fact, officers had not observed Snell at the scene of the accident and had to make an assumption that he had been impaired while driving. That assumption did not translate when the officers requested the warrant. Snell’s lawyer claimed the lack of information included in the warrant request violated Snell’s constitutional rights guaranteeing protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court agreed, overturning Snell’s conviction.

Surprisingly, police believe the whole problem could have been avoided had the warrant request form been a little longer. The Supreme Court also observed this problem in its opinion, noting that more space on the warrant form could have prevented the vague, incomplete language that ultimately led to Snell’s conviction. Now law enforcement officials will have to rethink the format of warrant request forms to avoid little errors turning into big constitutional problems in future DUI cases.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for Anelli Xavier are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  Attorney Advertising.

Underage Drinking During the Holidays

This holiday season it is very important to make sure that your teenager is safe especially with all of the holiday parties and the free flowing of alcohol. While holidays are certainly a time to celebrate, it does not give you an excuse to drive under the influence or to get in the car with someone who is highly intoxicated. There are a few precautionary steps you can take to ensure that your teenager remains safe this holiday season. New York State in particular created numerous initiatives in 2013 to help stop DUI/DWUIs.

Here are a few ways you can ensure that your teenager stays safe this holiday season:

1) Take advantage of free state-wide initiatives. As previously mentioned New York State as well as numerous other states across the US has initiated free taxi ride services on holidays that have been associated with heavy drinking patterns. Take advantage of these services, especially if you think your college age student would possibly be drinking. While you don’t want to encourage them to drink, you also want to educate them if they choose to do so anyway.

2) Arrange for a sober designated driver (DD). Make sure you talk to your teen about getting in a car with someone who is intoxicated. Always offer to pick up your teen no matter what circumstance. It’s also a good idea to know where they are going or who they are staying with. It’s important for your teen to know they can call you without fear. Otherwise they may decide getting in trouble for drinking behind your back is too risky and get in the car with someone who is intoxicated.

3) Speak your concerns. For an older teen or 20 year old, it may be harder to control their actions. Chances are they have their own car or have been away at college for one or even three years before turning 21. This is where it gets hard to speak with your older teen. It’s better to start conversations about alcohol at a younger age rather than to keep alcohol or drug use taboo in your household. These will open the doors of communication for your teen to open up to you. It’s best to be preventative when it comes to substance use education. However, have in mind that scare tactics are less effective. You want your teen to always be armed with the best education no matter what situation arises. Chances are if something does go wrong no adult will be present, just their peers and in some cases these could be life and death situations.

In any cases it’s important for teens to know the consequences of drinking, whether that is jail time, academic probation from college, an underage drinking record or a loss of license, knowing the consequences of their actions ahead of time may help a teen to decide not to engage in underage drinking or driving while under the influence. This holiday try to make family time an important priority so your teen is not bored and looking for entertainment that involves alcohol.

Bio: Melissa currently writes for St. Jude Retreats, a non 12 step alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. As well as writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa enjoys blogging about health and relationships.