In addition to your own costs, if the collision was your fault, you will probably have to pay the other driver’s costs too. Even if you have insurance, the other driver can sue you for negligence and win. If you rear-end someone, for example, you will be considered responsible for the collision and might get sued by the driver or his insurance company. If someone dies in the collision, the victim’s family could go after you for wrongful death. If they do seek out legal action, then you will have to get a lawyer to defend yourself. If the property damage is more than the insurance coverage (after all, there’s only so much your insurance will pay for), you could lose your house, car, and other assets.
How Insurance Works
In the state of California, it is mandatory to have auto insurance. There are, however, different kinds of coverage that vary in the types of damage and personal injury they cover and how much they cost. The most basic (and required by law) is called minimum liability coverage. This type of insurance pays for the damages done to another person’s vehicle or body and only for the amount of the coverage. In other words, if you are at fault for a crash and only have a $15,000 liability policy, your insurance will only pay for $15,000 of the damages done to the other person and their car. Anything more than the $15,000 is your responsibility. Your own medical expenses and car repairs are your own responsibility too.
In many cases, even a small at-fault crash will cost you a lot of money. Most insurance policies have a deductible that you have to pay before the insurance kicks in. Let’s say you’re in a crash and it’s going to cost $7,500 to get the other driver’s car fixed and your deductible is $1,000. This means you have to pay $1,000 out of your own pocket before the insurance company pays the rest of the $6,500 to get the car completely fixed. And this doesn’t even count your own expenses. Even with car insurance, there’s good financial incentive to avoid any type of collision.
Collisions Are Expensive
What happens to your insurance rate if you do get into a collision? If you are at-fault for a minor collision (which will stay on your record for three years), the insurance company, trying to recover the costs from the collision pay out, will charge you a higher premium until it is off your record. Even worse, if you decided to get the cheapest option (the insurance with minimum coverage) and are in a major crash, there will be some serious out-of-pocket expenses. For example, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) the estimated cost for a victim who was severely injured in an auto collision is $247,000. The minimum insurance coverage of $15,000 doesn’t even cover 10% of that. Even minor injuries cost $26,000. How will you pay for the rest?
Finally, you have to think about how this will affect your driving record and even your privilege to drive. The California DMV operates on a demerit point system to track careless and dangerous drivers. Every at-fault collision and traffic violation will add points to your record. For example, a minor at-fault collision will cost you one point and stays on your driving record for three years. More serious violations such as reckless driving and speeding over 100 mph have a penalty of two points and stay on your record for seven years. A DUI will stay on your record for a full 10 years! Get four or more points in 12 months (six points in 24 months or eight points in 36 months) and your license can be suspended or revoked. If you are eligible to get your license reinstated, you’ll have to wait at least 30 days. You will then have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees and fines.
Careless driving also impacts your quality of life. Much of your free time is devoted to dealing with the aftermath of a collision. The out-of-pocket costs for repairs, lawyers’ fees, and higher insurance premiums mean less money to spend on yourself and your favorite activities. If you are injured because of a collision, acute or chronic pain could alter your mood and prevent you from having an active lifestyle. Finally, if you have a major collision and seriously injure or kill someone else, you could carry around guilt and pain for the rest of your life. Is it worth it?
WHAT CAUSES COLLISIONS?
There are a number of factors that can increase your chances of being in a collision. In this section, we will look at why drivers have car crashes and what we can do to avoid them. The US Department of Transportation has listed the following as some of the most likely contributors to collisions.
Alcohol and Drugs
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one of the most common factors that lead to collisions, and one that can be easily avoided. When you are driving, you need to use your eyes, hands, and feet to control the vehicle, but it is the brain that controls all these parts of the body. When you use drugs or alcohol, your brain has a hard time telling your body what to do. You can’t make quick and safe decisions, which puts you and those around you at risk.
Inattention is another factor that can lead to minor and serious collisions. Remember, in order to drive safely, you need to use a number of senses and skills, including sight, judgment, and proper reaction time. If you are distracted while you are driving by fiddling with the gadgets and gizmos on the dashboard, eating, applying makeup, or doing any number of things that drivers are known to do, you are not giving your full attention to the most important task ahead of you – driving.
A sleepy driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver. Just like someone who is driving while using drugs or alcohol, a sleepy driver has a slow reaction time, difficulty processing what he sees and hears and making safe decisions. Some of the most common signs of a sleepy driver include constant yawning, trouble keeping your head up and your eyes focused, and as a result, swerving into other lanes. The only solution for drowsiness is to pull over into a well-lit, safe place and take a nap.
DUI CHANGES LIVES FOREVER
One night of drinking and driving can change your life and the lives of others forever.
A DUI is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and/or jail time. If anyone is injured from a collision while a driver is under the influence, the charge becomes a felony. A felony is punishable by a heavy fine, an automatic jail term, an extended probationary period, and a permanent criminal record as a convicted felon.
Your Emotional Health
Getting a DUI can be a traumatic event. If you end up in jail for your DUI, it can be embarrassing to explain this to friends and family. The emotional impact will be much more devastating if your drunk-driving has injured or killed someone else.
DUI Is Expensive
DUIs are also very expensive offenses. The trial and attorney fees could range between $5,000 to $8,000 and more. Fines and penalties on average cost about $4,000. And of course, your insurance rates will skyrocket. Over the course of ten years you could be paying an extra $20,000 to $30,000 for car insurance. Over a ten-year period, all of these expenses could add up to over $40,000!
Keep in mind that this is only for the DUI itself. This doesn’t include any of the costs associated with causing a crash while under the influence, such as hospital expenses. The victim or his family could also file a lawsuit against you and if they win, you can lose everything you have.
DUI Will Take Away Your Freedom
Apart from the financial burden, a DUI also has other repercussions. You will face a mandatory jail time of 96 hours to six months and your license can be suspended for up to six months. If the vehicle is registered in the driver’s name, it may be impounded for up to 30 days. You may also be required to have an ignition interlock device for up to three years which will prevent the operation of the vehicle when alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.
The Victims and their Families
Sometimes the drunk driver escapes a crash unharmed, but leaves behind a victim who is severely injured or killed. The victim’s family must live with this for the rest of their lives.
If you are driving during the day, on dry roads and in low traffic, you should follow the three-second rule for determining how much space to leave in front. How do you measure three seconds? Choose a fixed object on the road such as a sign or tree. When the vehicle ahead of you passes that object begin counting slowly “one-one thousand; two-one thousand; three-one thousand.” Don’t cheat and rush with the counting! If you reach the object before you have finished counting, you are following too closely. Slow down and try the count again.
We usually think of cell phones as the worst kind of distraction and this is true. Texting in particular is by far the most dangerous since it combines all three types of distractions – visual, manual, and cognitive. Even if you’re just talking on the phone, using a hands-free set, your mind is still distracted and you put yourself and others at risk.
DISTRACTED DRIVING STATISTICS
Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: FARS and GES)