Drivers risk getting pinched this St. Patrick's Day

A DUI can have long-lasting effects on both your wallet and your driving record



​​​SEATTLE – Two or three celebratory beers this St. Patrick's Day might cost more than you think. If you're cited for driving under the influence (DUI), the emotional and financial impact can last five, 10, even 15 years down the road, warns PEMCO Insurance.

"For many people who get a DUI, it's a one-time incident that's humiliating," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "While most people want to quickly put it behind them, the embarrassment and financial impact can haunt them for years, especially when they go to renew their auto insurance."

The total cost of a DUI can reach several thousand dollars over time. In the short term, when drivers get a DUI, they're often hit with hefty attorney's fees, court fines, fees for an ignition interlock system, treatment, and in some cases, fees for electronic home monitoring equipment.

But the long-term impact of a DUI can be the most costly, says Osterberg.

Assuming the driver doesn't get into an accident, the biggest financial strain of a DUI can be on a driver's auto insurance rates. A DUI on your record can cause your auto insurance company to drop your policy entirely, and a new insurer will likely charge significantly higher rates because of the DUI and having your insurance non-renewed.

According to Osterberg, rate increases caused by a DUI will last for three years. But if you seek new insurance, the prospective insurer will ask about any DUIs within the past five years as they assess your eligibility for coverage.

"When you consider the enormous financial impact of a DUI, it can take a big toll on your quality of life," said Osterberg. "But even finances pale in comparison to the shame and embarrassment a driver endures when publicly acknowledging the DUI and shopping for new coverage. That's especially true for otherwise safe drivers who simply had a one-time lapse in judgment."

In Washington state, a driver who gets a DUI could have his or her license suspended by the Dept. of Licensing. If so, the driver will be required to carry SR-22 high-risk insurance for the next three years. If you're flagged as an SR-22 driver, only certain carriers will insure you, most often at high premiums.

"Your insurance provider will likely take into consideration your total driving history to determine whether or not it will drop you or to determine how much your rates will increase," said Osterberg.

On St. Patrick's Day in 2006, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) arrested 38 drivers for driving under the influence. The same day in 2005, law enforcement officers in King County stopped more than 364 motorists for dangerous driving and arrested 33 impaired drivers.

"With St. Patrick's Day on a Saturday this year, people will be tempted to drink more than if it were during the work week," said Osterberg. "We encourage those who drink to call a taxi or use a designated driver to get home."

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit