Cover Story: Cost of Drunk Driving

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The holiday's are here, and New Year's Eve especially is known for drinking and unfortunately, drinking and driving.  Besides paying the ultimate price of death.  Have you ever really added up the cost of drinking and driving?

PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson did the math and found drinking and driving can land you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole.

Ask anybody who got behind the wheel drunk and got caught if they'd ever totaled up the costs, and you'd get an overwhelming no.  We're adding it up how much your ride home might cost you.

A night on the town with friends.  Seems harmless enough.

But drink too much get behind the wheel and get caught and that harmless fun you'll be paying for a long time.

"The ripple effect that it has is really immeasurable."

Trooper Brian Huffstickler specializes in drunk driving and is one of the local Highway Patrol troop's experts in the subject.

He says, "I don't think that you could put a dollar amount on it. Safe to say between eight to 10 thousand dollars probably a nice round number for the beginning of it."

Where did that eight to 10 grand come from?

Conviction for drunk driving even on a first offense and expect to see your car insurance rates triple.  For an average driver that means about $3,000.

Court fees could run as high as $2,000.  Attorney fees, $3,500 is the average cost to fight a first degree offense.

Then there's bail bondsmen you may have to hire.  Alcohol assessment programs the state makes you take.  License reinstatement fees, and more.

And that's not the end of it.. says defense attorney George Laughrun.  "It's a sad commentary.. but they just don't think."

He says one hidden and not-well known cost of drunk driving is losing your car.  Get a DWI conviction and in some cases your car insurance company could cancel your collision coverage.

Without collision coverage, a lender could force you to pay off the car loan immediately or turn over the car.

He says, "They don't think about getting in the car and saying.. I've only got to go two miles. Most of the DWIs happen when you're within a mile or two miles of your house. So you can almost get home, but there's no safe at home defense."

"This is a screening device."

Troopers carry a device in their vehicles that measures a driver's intoxication level.  They say about half the deadly accidents on the road are due to impaired driving.

And those costs, seriously injure or kill someone, and you could be paying for the rest of your life.

People don't do the math.

Says attorney George Laughrun, "Oh, there's no question they don't. I mean a 25-dollar cab ride in Charlotte will take you anywhere."

Twenty people died on North Carolina highways last year between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, and about half of those had something to do with drunk driving.

It's why this weekend in both Carolinas nearly every trooper will be on duty.  It's the most heavily staffed travel holiday of the year.