Driving High and Car Insurance
How Driving High Affects Your Car Insurance
You are likely to think of alcohol use when you think about driving under the influence, but each year, millions of Americans drive while under the influence of illicit drugs. This number is likely to increase as more states legalize marijuana, and the results can be devastating.
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) increases the risk of being involved in a car accident, and it also raises your car insurance rates.
Drugged Driving Defined
Defining drugged driving is difficult because of the variety of different drugs that can impair driving ability.
There is no standard national definition of drugged driving, as there is no specific concentration of drugs that scientifically proves impairment (as there is for alcohol).
Many states define drivers as drugged if the drugs currently in their system impair their ability to drive safely. Other states have per se laws that prohibit a driver to have any level of drugs in their system (or have only a certain level) while driving.
A very small number of states actually forbid habitual users of drugs from driving in the state.
How is DUID Proven?
Rather than providing an objective blood concentration as a threshold for designating a driver as drugged, state laws place the responsibility on law enforcement officers to decide if a driver is impaired.
Generally, if the driver is pulled over for the appearance of being impaired and then fails the field sobriety test but passes the BAC test, one of two things will happen:
- A drug recognition expert (DRE) will come to the scene to check for signs of drug use.
- The suspect will be immediately arrested and then tested for drugs while in custody.
If the driver has any drug paraphernalia in the vehicle, he can expect to be immediately arrested.
Effects of Marijuana vs. Alcohol
Although many people consider driving under the influence of marijuana less risky than driving drunk, marijuana still has detrimental effects.
Like alcohol, marijuana:
- Impairs your judgment.
- Slows your reaction time.
Just as alcohol relaxes you and dampens your awareness of unsafe driving behavior, marijuana does the same.
While alcohol tends to reduce inhibitions and prompt the driver to increase his speed, marijuana use typically results in slower driving. However, it still tends to slow the driver's senses. So even when he's going slow, he can misjudge:
- The behavior of other drivers.
- The distance of objects, pedestrians, and other drivers in the road.
- Other dangers.
The bottom line: driving under the influence of any substance prevents you from recognizing that you are putting yourself, your passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians in danger.
Testing for THC
There is no simple breath test that can easily detect the presence of marijuana in your system. Tests for THC must be taken from either a urine or blood sample, and these are often taken hours after the driver has been arrested.
Results of these tests can show THC in the system days or even weeks after the driver has smoked marijuana. This means that in states that haven't set legal limits for THC in the blood, the driver can be subject to criminal charges even if he didn't drive drugged.
Drugged and Driving: Know the Laws
Most states include alcohol and drugs under the umbrella of DUI, imposing the same penalties for impairment by drugs as impairment by alcohol. If you are found to be driving under the influence of any substance, you are subject to:
- Driver’s license suspension.
- Jail time.
- Reinstatement fees.
- Mandatory driver's training programs.
- Alcohol and drug treatment programs.
- DUI attorney fees.
For more information on DUI penalties, see our DUI & DWI section.
Per Se Laws
Many states have zero-tolerance laws that prohibit drivers from driving with ANY level of certain drugs in their system. (NOTE: Some states only ban minors from driving with any level of certain drugs in their systems.)
A small handful of states have cutoff levels for specific prohibited drugs. (Any intoxication over the cutoff level will be in violation of their DUI laws).
Finally, some states have laws that make it illegal for addicts/habitual users to drive in their states.
Drugged Driving and Your Car Insurance
Being caught driving under the influence or either drugs or alcohol can be expensive because it represents:
- Unsafe driving habits.
- Higher risk for future accidents.
If you get a DUI, you should expect to face an increase in your auto insurance premium. The exact figures vary depending on your policy and personal characteristics, but your insurance premium is likely to increase by hundreds of dollars.
In some cases, you may actually face cancellation of your policy and find yourself unable to obtain car insurance on the open market. If this happens, you'll need to find insurance with your state's automobile insurance plan, which will typically cost much more.
If your driver's license is suspended, you may be required to file an SR-22 certificate (sometimes called “SR22 insurance") in order to reinstate your license.
An SR-22 certificate is filed by your car insurance company on your behalf and guarantees that you'll hold insurance for a specified time period (usually 3 years).
SR-22s are expensive, and you'll likely pay more for your insurance on the whole.
For more information, visit our SR-22 Insurance page.