What does one drink too many risk?

What does one drink too many risk?

A new law in Maine, LD 1729, brings into focus the lifetime consequences of operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) – particularly for habitual offenders. The new law now looks at a driver’s ten-year record when considering punishment for felony OUI convictions. But there are even more long-term consequences for any OUI conviction. Here’s how it impacts insurance, foreign travel and family disruption.

Maine’s newly revised OUI law increases license suspensions for people with previous convictions. The law now reads:

Unless a longer period of suspension is otherwise provided by law and imposed by the court, the Secretary of State shall suspend the license of a person convicted of OUI for the following minimum periods:

A. One hundred and fifty days, if the person has one OUI conviction within a 10-year period;

B. Three years, if the person has 2 OUI offenses within a 10-year period;

C. Six years, if the person has 3 OUI offenses within a 10-year period;

E. Eight years, if the person has 4 or more OUI offenses within a 10-year period.

Any drunken driving conviction is going to impact obtaining affordable auto insurance. For first-time offenders, some insurance companies see a gold mine but not without risks. Newly convicted drunken drivers often are considered far more cautious, however, they will pay as much as double the premium for the next three to five years. For insurance companies willing to accept such risk, profits can be substantial with these newly reformed drivers.

An OUI conviction also can make umbrella liability coverage more difficult and certainly more expensive to obtain. Umbrella coverage is the backstop that protects personal or business assets beyond standard policy limits. A typical personal umbrella policy will provide a million dollars of additional coverage. However, if someone is considered a risk for injuring or killing others because of a drunken driving problem, standard insurance companies may not offer umbrella coverage.

Other lines of insurance that could be impacted are life and disability insurance. A drunken driver increases the probability of a loss and, therefore, must be charged far higher rates and may only find coverage in what is known as the non-standard market. And those are just insurance issues.

If your travel plans include visiting Canada, an OUI conviction with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.081% in the last five years will mean you’ll be refused entry by our neighbors to the North. Other offenses such as reckless driving, misdemeanors and drug related offenses also will prevent entry. According to the lawdictionary.org, the burden of declaring one’s criminal record is on the visitor. “Anyone coming into the country is required by Canadian law to declare the conviction to the customs agent whether asked or not. If a person does not make such a declaration and then are discovered or questioned after entry, that person can be charged for illegally entering the country, which is far more serious.”

I actually saw a gentleman at a large social outing escorted back across the border by the Canadian Mounted Police when it was determined he had a prior conviction. Not only was his trip disrupted but his reputation was publicly tarnished.

Then there is the family disruption to consider. Imagine not being able to drive to work, drop off the kids, visit the doctor or do errands just because you chose to have one too many drinks. So, let’s review once again how many drinks are too many.

As the drinkinganddriving.org web site states, the only safe blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving is 0.00. In most of North America, a BAC of 0.08 is considered legal intoxication though some states impose penalties for a BAC of 0.05. Also note: anyone under the age of 21 with a BAC higher than 0.00 is subject to legal action.

It takes roughly 45 minutes for single drink of alcohol to clear your system. That means that for each drink, a wait of 45 minutes is suggested before even considering driving. The far more sensible option is to have a designated driver or cab take care of your transportation needs. That one sober decision could keep you on the road and out of a lifetime of trouble.

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