Guide to Getting Car Insurance for Drivers with a Conviction
Life after a driving conviction is awkward. You must learn to deal with the bad deed, pay the costs associated with it and figure out the life changes needed to make sure it never happens again. It could be as innocent as a temporary lapse of attention turned into a serious speeding fine, or as dangerous as a night out with friends turned into a DUI. First, let’s be thankful you survived that risky behavior while we contemplate what it will mean for your car insurance going forward.
The True Cost of a Conviction
Obviously, a conviction is a strong signal to companies that you may not be the ideal car insurance risk. So you are going to pay more for your car insurance – a lot more. According to esurance, for example, the total cost of a DUI ranges from at least $5,000 (in Tennessee) to as high as $25,000 (in Alaska).
In many states, you must file a special form that confirms you carry adequate insurance coverage before you can drive again. And depending on where you live, you may also have to pay a fee just to file that SR-22, FR-44 or FR-19 form.
Damage Control After a Conviction
Convictions accompany only the most serious driving offenses – ones that could get you or someone else killed. Assuming you’ve realized the error of your ways and have made a commitment to prevent a future occurrence, there are ways to cut some of the financial burdens associated with your conviction.
- Safe Driving Classes – A safe driving class is probably the most important step you can take after a conviction, not just to save money on premiums, but also to reinforce the importance of safe driving psychologically. These classes can help you see just how lucky you were that you survived the incident, and will also help you become a better driver.
- Don’t Let a Coverage Lapse Drive up Rates – You should also take steps to ensure that a coverage lapse doesn’t drive up your rates. Although your license will be suspended from 30 to 90 days following a DUI, your car insurance will remain in effect… unless your insurer decides to drop you because of the offense. If that happens, you should receive a notice of cancellation. And if you do, you should immediately shop for another car insurance policy to maintain continuity of coverage, even though you cannot drive. Premium increases for a lapse in coverage can be high, even if the lapse is forced.
- Turn in Your Sports Car for a Sedan – If you were convicted of a serious speeding violation in a sports car, maybe it’s time to turn in your Mustang for a Malibu. It takes years of driving experience and self control to learn to drive a sports car responsibly, and you may have a few years left in your learning curve. The switch to a sedan from a high-powered vehicle could save you a lot in car insurance.
- Shopping Around – In one sense, getting car insurance after a conviction is just like getting it any other time–you need to shop around to get the best deal. Try to get quotes from several different insurance companies, understanding that many will flatly refuse to cover you. You might need to apply for insurance through your state’s ‘assigned risk’ program. If that’s the case, it will be a few years before you can shop on the standard market again.
Preventing Future Problems
Remember that once you’ve had a driving conviction, future offenses can result in jail time, which would lead to a host of other problems. You could lose your job, and you might have a harder time getting a new one after you leave prison. When a DUI or speeding infraction results in injury to someone else, it may be deemed a felony, which will follow you around like a dark cloud. Many employers will not hire someone with a felony conviction. With these risks in mind, it’s vital that you take steps to prevent a repeat offense. Consider some of these strategies:
- Get Help for Alcohol Abuse – Everyone knows drunken driving is dangerous. But alcohol impairs your judgment. It’s easy to think, “Well, I feel okay to drive,” when you are definitely NOT okay to drive. It’s likely you drove while impaired a few times before you were finally caught. A DUI conviction should be a serious signal to you that your lifestyle needs adjustment. If you feel the need to drink so strongly that you’ll risk your life and the lives of others to accommodate that habit, you should think about getting medical help. You may be dependent on alcohol, an illness that can become a downward spiral which takes away everything that’s important to you.
- Understand the After-Effects of Alcohol – Understand that driving with a hangover can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. After a hard night, you’re likely sleep-deprived. You may experience headaches, nausea, dehydration and other after-effects of excessive drinking. So don’t just avoid driving when you’re drunk; stay in the next morning, too.
- Identify Other Underlying Causes – Dangerous driving can be a signal of larger psychological issues. The need for speed, for example, can be a side effect of conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The legal and financial consequences of reckless or intoxicated driving are serious. Hopefully, you’re reading this after a single offense and you’ve already learned your lesson. Commit to driving safely and focus on your future by doing what you can to mitigate the long-term damage to your lifestyle.