Memorize the following list and recite it to yourself if you ever find yourself behind the steering wheel of your vehicle, contemplating whether you are sober enough to drive:
- One-year license suspension.
- Medical evaluation to determine driving fitness.
- $1,000 fine (and other fees).
- Mandatory enrollment in Ontario’s “Back on Track” education/treatment program before license reinstatement.
- One year use of ignition interlock device upon license reinstatement.
- A criminal record.
Those are the court-mandated penalties that will be handed down to you if you are convicted of a first-time driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs offence. And while they may seem costly, you should also consider the impact a DUI might have on your motor vehicle insurance rates. If you want to add that to the above list, double your current rates and multiply them by three for a minimum rough guess estimate of the total insurance-related cost of a DUI.
And because the insurance-related costs often represent the most significant financial impact of a DUI conviction, the criminal defence lawyers of TorontoDUI thought it would be a good idea to examine the issue in more detail. We’ll use this Knowledge Centre blog to explain how a DUI in Canada can impact your motor vehicle insurance policy and rates.
Do You Have to Inform Your Insurance Company About a DUI Arrest?
While policy terms vary among insurers, any driver charged with a DUI arising from a traffic accident must inform their insurance company about the charges. Absent an accident, those charged with DUI must notify their insurance company either when charged or after a conviction, depending on the specific policy terms. Failing to inform an insurance company about a DUI according to the policy terms can render the policy void. And if your insurance company finds out about the DUI after the fact, it can deny claims and force you to pay damages out of pocket.
If you were arrested for DUI due to an accident you caused, you’re probably not going to receive any compensation for your damages. Insurance companies can legally deny claims based on how your impairment caused the accident. Ontario insurance laws allow insurers to deny claims if the insured driver is convicted of any related DUI offence, including breathalyzer test refusals.
Convicted of DUI? — You Are Now a “High-Risk Driver
After you’ve been convicted of DUI, your insurance company will probably cancel or opt not to renew your policy. Ontario insurance laws allow insurers to cancel policies and deny renewals when there is a material change to a driver’s risk profile. These laws deem impaired driving as risky and classify those convicted of DUI and other serious traffic offences as “high-risk drivers.” While the provincial laws allow individual companies to cancel motor vehicle insurance coverage of high-risk drivers, the industry as a whole is required by law to provide all drivers with basic insurance coverage.
High-Risk Drivers Can Get Insurance for a Steep Price
Ontario’s insurance laws ensure that any high-risk driver can get insurance, but it is typically only offered at a steep price. Several insurance companies in the province specialize in insuring high-risk drivers because — cha-ching! — they charge exorbitant premiums for the service. Additionally, all the province’s insurance companies belong to what’s known as the Facility Association. This insurance pool that is the last resort in providing auto insurance to high-risk drivers.
No matter who insures you after a DUI conviction, all insurers calculate your premiums based on numerous metrics, including driving patterns, where you live, moving violations, and vehicle type, age, and condition. A high-risk DUI becomes a significant and pricey metric once it comes into play, with estimates of its impact on annual premiums ranging between $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the other metrics. You’ll feel this financial pain from the premium increases for at least three years. Even though a first-time DUI is removed from your Ontario driving record three years after the date of conviction, insurance companies are allowed to maintain the resultant high-risk classification for up to six years.
How to Get Insurance as a High-Risk Driver
If your auto insurance is cancelled or subject to non-renewal due to a DUI, you will need to seek high-risk auto insurance from an Ontario insurance company that offers it or from the Facility Association. To find an independent high-risk driver insurer, you must use the services of a licensed Ontario insurance broker, who earns a fee for connecting high-risk drivers with an insurance company willing to take on the risk. Given the broker fees and likely high cost of premiums, you should seek multiple quotes from different brokers to find the most reasonable option possible.
If you’re a repeat DUI offender with other moving violations or otherwise deemed a high-risk driver, you might not be able to find an independent company willing to provide coverage. In this case, you will have to turn to the Facility Association, which, as the insurer of last resort, must provide you with coverage, albeit at very high rates. Absent coverage from an independent high-risk insurer, you must turn to
How to Save Money on Premiums as a High-Risk Driver
No matter who insures you after your DUI conviction, you should shop around for the best rates in the ensuing years, especially three years after your conviction. If you have maintained a safe driving record since your conviction, you may be able to secure lower-priced insurance from a high-risk insurer or even a regular insurance company.
The best way to mitigate the exorbitant hike in insurance premiums that come with a DUI conviction is to purchase and drive the cheapest vehicle possible. Or you could just give up car ownership altogether.
Don’t Become a “High-Risk” Driver Due to a DUI Conviction
Of course, the best means of avoiding the high insurance rates that come with a DUI is never to drive while impaired. However, if you failed to heed that advice and are now facing a criminal trial for DUI charges, do not consider pleading guilty until you have spoken to a skilled criminal defence lawyer. While you might be concerned about the costs of hiring a lawyer, a criminal DUI conviction will put a much bigger hit on your bank account. With over 15 years of successfully defending thousands of Greater Toronto Area clients from DUI-related charges, contact TorontoDUI for a free consultation.