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Impaired driving or a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) can impact your car insurance in various ways. If you’ve recently been pulled over for a DUI, it’s highly likely that your auto insurance rates will rise. In Canada, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very serious offence. Because of the harm it can cause to yourself and others nearby, penalties are quite stiff. Legal penalties can range from driving classes and driving suspensions to expensive fines and possible jail time. The punishment often fits the severity and damage done by the crime. Some insurance companies may not cover an individual with a DUI because it has been on their record for a long period of time. If this happens to you, luckily isure has all of the key information regarding the relationship between a DUI and car insurance rates. 

What is “impaired driving”?

Whether it’s alcohol or drugs, it’s impaired driving. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website, “many drugs, even those prescribed by a doctor or purchased over-the-counter, can impair your ability to drive safely. If you are unsure of whether it is safe for you to drive while taking your medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Alcohol—even one drink—can reduce your ability to react to things that happen suddenly. The effects of alcohol also include [blurry] or double vision, impaired attention and slow reflexes. Alcohol [impairment] is one of the leading causes of death on Ontario’s roads.”

For further reference, a recent report by the The Canadian Society of Forensic Science states that impairment from cannabis begins almost immediately. Also, it can last up to six hours or more, depending on THC levels, the amount and how you consume it (inhaling or ingesting). Below are the driving classes and the legal allowance oft BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) levels you should be aware of:

Fully-licensed drivers

In Canada, if you are a fully-licensed driver, the maximum legal BAC is to be under 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.08.  If you operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or more, it is a criminal offence. In Ontario, if your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.08, a.k.a. the “warning range,” you can also face serious consequences.

Young and novice drivers

Ages 21 or under and/or a novice driver of any age (with G1, G2, M1, or M2 licenses), there is a ZERO tolerance policy in place. This means you must not have ANY presence of alcohol in your blood when behind the wheel. This is commonly known as the “zero BAC” or “zero tolerance” rule.  This applies to drugs, as well.

Commercial drivers

As of July 1, 2018, if you operate vehicles requiring an A-F class licence, vehicles requiring a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) and road building machines, you are prohibited from having any presence of alcohol or evidence of drug use when behind the wheel. Additionally, you shouldn’t have any presence of cannabis or other drugs in your system either. These can be detected by approved drug screening equipment.

If police determine that you have the presence of cannabis or alcohol in your system, or that you are under the influence, you will face severe consequences and potential criminal charges.  This also includes illegal drugs, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications.

What are the penalties for driving under the influence?

** Please note the below information is from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website.

Penalties for you driving under the influence are immediate upon being pulled over. If you face a conviction in court, you will also face additional consequences when it comes to a DUI and car insurance. The penalties you will face depend on your age, licence type, the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system and how many convictions you have.

Immediate penalties

If you:

  • Have a blood alcohol concentration is 0.05 or higher
  • Fail a roadside sobriety test
  • Violate the zero tolerance requirements for young, novice and commercial drivers

You will face:

First offence

  • Three-day licence suspension. There is no appeal process.
  • $250 penalty

Second offence within five years

  • Seven-day licence suspension (Three-day suspension for commercial drivers). There is no appeal process.
  • $350 penalty
  • You must attend a mandatory education program (for a second occurrence within 10 years)

Third and subsequent offences within five years

  • 30-day licence suspension (Three-day suspension for commercial drivers). There is no appeal process.
  • $450 penalty
  • You must attend a mandatory treatment program (for third and subsequent offence within 10 years)
  • A requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months (for third and subsequent offence within 10 years)
  • You will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario (for fourth and subsequent offence within 10 years).

In addition to the penalties above, you will also face a $281 licence reinstatement fee each time you have a licence suspension. Young or novice drivers may also face charges under the Highway Traffic Act. If there’s a conviction, you can face additional suspension and fines.

Penalties for a BAC over the legal limit, refuse testing or impairment

If you refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, register a BAC over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines that you are under the influence, you will face:

  • A 90-day licence suspension
  • Seven-day vehicle impoundment
  • $550 penalty
  • $281 licence reinstatement fee
  • You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program (for second and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)
  • You will be required to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months (for third and subsequent occurrences within 10 years)

Additional penalties if convicted in court

If you are a young or novice driver convicted for violating the zero tolerance requirements for drugs or alcohol, your driver’s licence will be suspended again for at least 30 days and you will receive an additional $60-$500 fine.

No matter what age or licence you have, if you have a criminal conviction of impaired driving in court, you can face additional fines and jail time, plus:

First offence

  • Licence suspension of at least one year
  • You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least one year
  • You will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario

Second offence within 10 years

  • Licence suspension of at least three years
  • You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least three years
  • You will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario

Third or more offence within 10 years

  • Lifetime licence suspension, which may be reduced after 10 years if you meet certain criteria
  • You must attend a mandatory education or treatment program
  • Requirement to use an ignition interlock device for at least six years
  • You will need to undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario

Will an impaired driving charge raise your car insurance rate?

When auto insurance carriers find out that you have a DUI, they may take it in various ways. The insurance company may cancel your policy when this happens. However, other companies may maintain your coverage, but raise your premium rate. Insurance companies do have the right to refuse to cover claims if you refuse to disclose your DUI. Drivers should look for policies that specialize in covering high-risk drivers, including drivers with a DUI on their record. However, these policies are often premiums with higher monthly or annual rates. Drivers with a DUI can pay up to five times more on their car insurance rate than drivers with a completely clean record. Each DUI will continue to increase auto insurance rates further. 

Will the insurance company ever lower your premium after a DUI?

Fortunately, the penalty for a DUI and car insurance is not always a lifelong situation. You will likely not need to pay the high premium forever if you remedy your driving situation. If you maintain a clean record and avoid filing claims, your insurance premium can decrease yearly. After a few years of maintaining this, you can purchase an auto insurance rate for a normal price. If you have a licence suspension due to a DUI, it will remain on your record for at least six years. 

Should I inform my insurance provider about my DUI?

In a word—yes. “You have an obligation to inform your insurer,” says Derek Tupling, vice-president of government relations and communications for Facility Association. “If you choose not to and your insurer becomes aware of your conviction, they can take action, including refusal to provide coverage or cancelling your policy due to misrepresentation.” Should they cancel your policy due to misrepresentation or non-disclosure (essentially, lying or omitting information), this will be noted on your driving record. The next time that you apply for auto coverage, insurers will see two notations on your file: the DUI and the misrepresentation. This may further complicate your ability to get insurance from a standard provider. So, in essence, don’t lie or try to hide your DUI from your insurer.

DUI and speeding ticket in Ontario

If a police officer pulls you over for speeding or driving recklessly, this can be enough grounds to ask you for a sobriety test. This is especially so if you appear to have slurred speech or if they can smell alcohol or marijuana in the vehicle. This may include a roadside brethalyzer, a field sobriety test or being put under arrest and brought to the police station. This may result in an impaired driving charge or DUI and speeding ticket.

Overall, if you are ever unsure of whether you are capable of driving after a few drinks, don’t take the chance and arrange for another way home. Calling an Uber driver or a reliable (and sober) friend are just some of the possible options!

isure is challenging the mindset that all insurance and insurers are the same. We’re progressing insurance forward instead of simply implementing the same old tactics that have been used for over 50 years! We have your back, advocating for your insurance and ensuring you get the coverage you deserve. If you’ve been charged with a DUI or simply have more questions, contact your isure broker today. For more information on Ontario’s impaired driving laws, visit mto.gov.on.ca.

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