Insurance Commissioner, Auto Club Warn Young Adults: Don't Spend Spring Break In Court

(LOS ANGELES, March 23, 2009) -- Pointing to an alarming rise in alcohol-related driving fatalities, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today was joined by Thomas V. McKernan, CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California, to urge Californians to exercise caution this spring break to avoid thousands of dollars in DUI fines, penalties, insurance rate hikes and most importantly, to avoid risking lives.

“As thousands of young adults are about to kick off a fun-filled spring break, I urge them to avoid drinking and driving, and the consequences that come with it – DUIs, massive bills, rate hikes and endangering lives,” said Commissioner Poizner. “Avoiding unnecessary expenses, injuries and death can be as easy as calling a taxi. I encourage anyone embarking on a fun vacation to spare themselves the pain and trouble of a potential DUI – don’t drink and drive.”

From 1998 through 2007, the number of drivers in alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes in California rose 51 percent among young adults ages 21 to 24, while for all ages, the number of drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes increased 10 percent. In 1998 there were 2765 drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 involved in alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes. In 2007 that number rose to 4176.

The data also revealed that female drivers ages 21 to 24 involved in alcohol-related fatal and injury accidents rose by more than 116 percent. There was a 39 percent increase among males in the same age group. This information is based on a recent Auto Club analysis of CHP statewide traffic crash data.

“The safety of our members is our primary concern, and drunk driving is our members’ number one traffic safety concern,” said Thomas V. McKernan, CEO of the Auto Club. “These figures are especially compelling at a time when many young Californians in this age bracket are traveling during the spring recess from our colleges and universities.”

Commissioner Poizner reminded young adults that the costs related to a first-time misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence can easily exceed $13,000.

Estimated costs for a first misdemeanor DUI conviction in California according to the Auto Club:

Fines (minimum): $468

Penalties (minimum)*: $780

Tow/impound fee: $187

Alcohol education class: $500

Auto insurance increase**: $8,652

Attorney and legal fees: $2,557

DMV license reissue fee: $100

Victim Restitution Fund $100

Booking, fingerprinting and photo fee: $156

Total: $13,500

*Penalties vary by county, from $663 to $858. The most typical cost is $780.

**Based on premium increases over ten years for a male motorist with nine years driving experience.

Source: Automobile Club of Southern California