Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences
The Consequences of Drunk Driving

The Consequences of Drunk Driving: Fines, Criminal Records & Injuries

Updated Nov. 21, 2020

Drunk driving is the most commonly committed criminal offense in the United States, with an estimated 300,000 people driving under the influence of alcohol every day. The negative consequences of drunk driving impact every level of our society. Furthermore, alcohol-impaired driving incurs serious, long-lasting consequences for the offending drivers themselves and every innocent person affected by their crimes.

The personal consequences of drunk driving

With the exception of life or death emergencies, drunk drivers gain very little from choosing to drive while intoxicated. Most cases of driving under the influence occur because the driver in question has had too much to drink and does not wish to suffer the inconvenience of leaving their car at home or finding an alternative means of transport to get home from a party or event.

That is the only thing an alcohol-impaired person stands to gain from driving: convenience. In exchange for this perceived benefit, they risk injury, death, disfigurement, permanent disability, life-long guilt, financial losses, incarceration, job loss and dozens of other negative repercussions that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. Does that seem like a risk worth taking to you?


No drunk driver ever thinks that they will end up dying in a car wreck, yet an average of 10,000 drivers do every year. Everybody dies, but most people hope to die in their old age, comfortable in bed and surrounded by their loved ones. Car accidents that involve alcohol-impaired drivers are often catastrophic and can result in a premature, painful, ugly kind of death. If you are fortunate, you may be killed instantly. Even then, your death will be brutal and will leave a lasting scar on your friends, family and any person who is responsible for cleaning up the mess or preparing your body for burial. Consider the reality of a drunk driving death:

  • Police, paramedics and firefighters will have to see your body and remove it from the wreckage. This will likely include picking up body parts that have been severed in the crash.
  • In the morgue, a coroner or medical examiner will perform a post-mortem on your corpse to determine the cause of death. This will include testing your blood for drugs and alcohol – your relatives will know you died because you drove while intoxicated.
  • Your dead body will then be stored in a fridge until a member of your family comes to identify it. Your mother, father, sibling or spouse may be forced to look at your horrifically mutilated corpse.
  • From here, a mortician will take over to prepare your body for burial. They may clean and dress the corpse, providing it is not too badly disfigured or dismembered.
  • At your funeral, having an open casket is unlikely to be an option. Often in car wrecks, the victim’s body and face are badly damaged and would not be recognizable to their loved ones.

Imagine what impact your brutal and untimely death would have on all the people in this scenario. Now, imagine how you would feel if you survived the collision, but your actions lead to an innocent person’s death. All too often, the people who die in drunk driving collisions are friends of relatives of the intoxicated driver.

Social consequences

Killing another person in a drunk driving collision will devastate the lives of the people they leave behind. Drunk driving deaths often affect entire communities. You could be responsible for killing somebody’s mother, father, sibling, husband, wife, child or friend. The person you kill could be somebody you know or a relative of somebody you know. You may be cut off by family and friends who no longer wish to be associated with your crime.

Even if your actions do not kill or seriously injure another person, having a DUI conviction can seriously affect your social life and personal relationships. It is likely you will feel ashamed of your actions and will be treated differently by everybody in your life who hears about the DUI charge. Eventually, you may shy away from social occasions, becoming anxious, reclusive and depressed.

A criminal record

Depending on your age and the exact consequences of your alcohol-impaired driving, you may be fined, incarcerated, ordered to do community service or have your driver’s license revoked. Even after these punishments have been dealt with, having a DUI on your permanent record will continue to affect your life for years to come.

Most employers, schools and landlords conduct background checks on applicants, which would bring your DUI conviction to their attention. You may be fired from your current job or have trouble securing a new job, when employers find out about the offense. If you need financial aid in school, your application may only be successful if you have a clean record. Furthermore, schools and colleges routinely reject scholarship students with previous DUI offenses. As a result of one idiotic decision, your education and career plans could be ruined. Drunk driving is a one-way ticket to a dead-end job, a low-rent neighborhood and unfulfilled ambitions.

Financial consequences

The financial consequences of a DUI conviction vary greatly from state to state. They will also be determined by the precise circumstances of the crime and whether it was a first, second or third offense. One thing is certain: DUI convictions can be expensive enough to financially cripple you, for life.

We have put together a rough estimate of costs associated with a first-time DUI offense, to give you an idea of the money you stand to lose by drinking and driving. Keep in mind that these are estimates only; the real financial cost could end up being much greater.

  1. $100 to $2,500 – bail costs. It is likely you will be jailed for at least 24 hours following the first time DUI charge.
  2. $100 to $1,500 – car towing, impounding and roadway clean-up costs.
  3. $1,500 to $6,000 – the cost of an attorney.
  4. $100 to $2,000 – fines.
  5. $10 to $300 – jail costs.
  6. $100 to $250 – sentencing fees.
  7. $200 to $1,200 – probation costs.
  8. $100 to $200 – blood and urine test costs.
  9. $1,000 to $2,500 – driver responsibility fees (applicable in some states)
  10. $1,000 to $3,000 – court-ordered treatment or alcohol awareness classes.
  11. $500 to $1,500 – court-ordered fitting of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
  12. $1,000 to $10,000 – insurance premium increases.

Even taking the lowest figure for each of these costs, a DUI conviction could set you back around $6,000. In DUI cases that incur higher costs, you could be looking at financial losses in excess of $20,000. Keep in mind that we are talking about first-time offenses here; for second and third offenses, the cost of a DUI conviction is likely to be at least double that figure. Plus, this calculation does not take into account the financial consequences of lost productivity, time spent off work, medical costs, compensation and money spent on alternative means of transportation.

The impact on society

If you are involved in a drunk driving collision with another road user, they will suffer directly as a result of your actions. Thousands more people will be indirectly affected by your mistake. For instance:

  • Money from hard-working taxpayers will be used to pay for public costs, such as law enforcement, property damage, legal costs and public service announcements.
  • Hundreds of people may be late for school, work and important engagements because of the roadway disruption you caused.
  • Any people who are usually served or cared for by the people you have disrupted will suffer too.
  • Drivers may have to deal with more random DUI checks due to the drunk driving problem in your area, which you have contributed to.
  • Money that could be spent on other important public services will be redirected toward alcohol awareness and other anti-DUI measures, because of irresponsible drivers like you.

Financially, our country is buckling under the pressure caused by irresponsible drunk drivers. Conservative estimates suggest that the effects of alcohol-impaired driving and the mission to tackle it cost the United States billions of dollars every year. If you care about your future, the future of your loved ones and the health of our country’s economy, do not drink and drive.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!


Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 4 votes.

Read next

7 Ways To Avoid Drunk Driving and Get Home Safely
Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 9 of 13

Getting Home Safely

There is only one way to guarantee you will not cause a drunk driving collision: do not drink and drive. To protect yourself from causing a drunk driving collision it is not enough simply to say: “I will not drink and drive”. You need to remove the possibility of drunk driving occurring, as when it comes down to it, alcohol may change your mind.

Drunk Driving Among Teenagers
Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 10 of 13

Drunk Driving Among Teenagers

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States and clearly, underage alcohol consumption is contributing to the problem. The question is, why are so many young drivers ignoring the risks and getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol?

Zero Tolerance Under 21 - Don't Drink and Drive
Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 11 of 13

Zero Tolerance Laws

Every state has a zero tolerance law which prohibits under 21-year olds from driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their blood stream. Now, an under 21-year old with even trace amounts of alcohol in their blood will automatically be guilty of driving under the influence.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 2 of 13

Impaired Driving

The physical and mental effects of drinking alcohol have been proven to impair driving ability to the extent that a person entertains substantially greater risk of being involved in a fatal collision, should they choose to drive while impaired. Learning about DUI and DWI laws and penalties is a vital aspect of your driver’s education program.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 3 of 13

The Big Picture: DUI & DWI

Alcohol and drug-impaired driving is responsible for unfathomable loss of life around the United States. In 2016, at least 10,497 people are known to have died in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes. This astonishing figure accounts for 28% of all traffic fatalities that year.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 4 of 13

DUI & DWI Statistics

In 2017, drunk drivers with a BAC of 0.08% were responsible for the deaths of 10,784 people around the United States. 68% of these fatalities involved a driver with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. Despite the progress that has been made since The Minimum Drinking Age Act and the lowering of the legal drink driving limit, our country still has a long way to go.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 5 of 13

DUI & DWI Laws

DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) can be confusing terms for new and experienced motorists alike! Both phrases refer to driving a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, and many states use them interchangeably.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 6 of 13

DUI and DWI Penalties

The penalties that accompany a DUI conviction vary from state to state. Any crime committed either qualifies as an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony, with infractions being the least serious crimes and felonies being the most serious. In all 50 states, driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

Impaired Driving: Laws, Penalties and Consequences 7 of 13

Implied Consent Law

“Implied consent” means that in obtaining a driver’s license and driving on public roads, you have automatically given permission for a chemical test to be conducted if a police officer suspects you of driving while intoxicated. All 50 states have some version of the implied consent law.