Margaret Huntley Last Updated On: June 27, 2023

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The Rundown on DUIs and DWIs


Every two hours, three people are killed due to impaired driving. When you drive impaired, you are putting your own health and safety at risk, as well as that of others on the road.

Do not drive while impaired!

In addition to the irresponsibility of driving while impaired, you will face significant legal consequences for your actions. If caught drinking and driving, you may be charged with a DUI or a DWI.

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What’s the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?

Unfortunately, there is no nation-wide standard defining factor between these two charges. This is because the laws vary between states. Many states have a single charge for those who drive while impaired. In such states they may use any of the following four titles to mean essentially the same thing: you were impaired while driving.
  • DUI: Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI: Driving With Influence/Intoxication
  • OUI: Operating Under the Influence
  • OWI: Operating With Influence/Intoxication
However, there are some states that do have both DUIs and DWIs. In these states, a DUI will be issued if a driver is impaired by alcohol and a DWI will be issued if a driver is impaired by drugs. Note that these drugs do not necessarily have to be illegal, you can still be impaired by taking certain prescription medications.

Types of Impairment While Driving

You are an impaired driver if you are incapable of operating a vehicle safely.

When it comes to driving drunk, different states have different Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) requirements. A Breathalyzer test measures your BAC, and if you fail you will be charged with impaired driving. The federal standard number that determines drunk driving is 0.08 for those over 21 and 0.01 for those under that age. Again, different states will have variations on this rule.

It is also important to know that you can still be charged with drunk driving if you pass the Breathalyzer, but fail a field sobriety test. Most often, when someone thinks of a DUI, they think of driving drunk. But alcohol is not the only thing that can impair your driving:

  • Fatigue
  • Legal or Illegal Drugs
  • Medical Conditions
  • Other Distractions

Any one of these impairments has the potential to land you a DUI/DWI charge, so long as an officer determines that you were, in fact, impaired.

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Legal Penalties for Impaired Driving

Like the terminology, the penalties for impaired driving vary from state to state. For instance, in Alaska if you are issued a first-offence DUI your license is suspended for 90 days. But in Connecticut, a first-offence DUI results in a one-year license suspension. You will have to refer to your home state’s laws to know exactly what DUI or DWI penalties you will incur. The following are possible penalties faced for impaired driving:
  • License suspension
  • Interlocking device (a device installed in on a vehicle that will not allow the vehicle to start until the driver blows a BAC of 0.00)
  • Large fines
  • Jail time

Consequences of Impaired Driving on Insurance

Driving while impaired is an extremely high risk behaviour, so the effects of a DUI or DWI on your insurance policy are significant. It is typical to see your rates double or triple after an impaired driving charge.

Some states require an SR-22 form to reinstate your insurance. An SR-22 form is essentially a statement that certifies your financial responsibility and tells the insurance company that you will be able to pay the increased premiums.

In some cases, your insurance policy will be dropped all together. Regardless of whether your current insurance company keeps you on, or if you are forced to look for a new company, a DUI will last 3-5 years on your permanent record. The length of time will vary between states.

Driving without insurance coverage, driving while your licence is suspended, and/or acquiring additional impaired driving charges will only make the consequences worse. The absolute best course of action is to never, ever drive while impaired.

Margaret Huntley Margaret Huntley is a creative writing and philosophy student at Western University. She has been working as a freelance writer for over two years and has written about everything from insurance, to poker, to health and wellness for international businesses.

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