Drunk drivers heed this warning: If you are caught, your insurance will be hit, and it will be hit hard, said a claims manager at Cambrian Insurance Company.
Insurance companies hand out the biggest penalties for those caught and convicted of drinking and driving, said Lisla Beaton, during the launch of the 24th annual Red Ribbon Campaign.
“We hit you in your pocket book, and we hit you big time, so don't drink and drive,” Beaton said.
The longtime claims manager used her own husband as an example to paint a picture of the financial impact of being convicted of drinking and driving. Her husband is 61 years old. He drives a 2004 Honda Pilot and has a clean driving record. His best annual car insurance premium is $1,187 a year.
“Throw in one impaired conviction and a licence suspension, and the premium becomes $4,874 a year, an increase of $3,486,” Beaton said.
Taking the same example, but changing the age to 24 instead of 61, the best premium offered is $1,702 a year. Throw in that impaired conviction and licence suspension, and the premium skyrockets to $6,519 a year, an increase of $4,817 more a year.
Going back to her husband's age of 61, if he were to be convicted of a second impaired driving charge, his premium would increase to $14,618.
Furthermore, insurance companies won't cover any damage to the vehicle of a drunk driver, nor will they pay for the majority of benefits paid in cases where drinking and driving wasn't involved. If a driver is seriously injured in a collision, and they weren't drinking and driving, they could expect such benefits as the company paying for loss of income.
If you drink and drive, though, don't expect anything like that, she said.
“(Insurance companies) don't care, you were impaired, it's your problem, and the company will not benefit the driver in this case,” she said.
She also cautioned that everyone needs to be wary about lending out their vehicle. If you lend out your vehicle, and the driver is caught drinking and driving, or causes a collision, it's the vehicle's owner who will face the full brunt of the consequences, especially if there is an injury involved.
When you lend out your vehicle, she said, you lend out your insurance.
If a lawsuit is filed after someone is injured in a drunk-driving case, the owner of the vehicle is the first person the lawyers will come after. These lawsuits tend to be quite costly, too.
“I've had eight lawsuits go through my office this year, and seven of them were for more than $1 million,” she said. “So, if you have coverage for $1 million, but a lawsuit was filed for $1.5 million, they would take your $1 million and then go after the driver for the remaining $500,000. But if that driver turns out to not have insurance, then the lawyers would come back to the vehicle's owner for the rest of the money. Now he loses everything he owns, because he didn't have enough insurance.”
The Red Ribbon Campaign is a commitment made by Sudburians to drive safe and sober, and it is one of Action Sudbury's most prominent initiatives. Throughout the Christmas season, red ribbons are distributed to residents, businesses and organizations throughout the Sudbury area. These ribbons are to be tied in a visible spot on a motor vehicle throughout the entirety of the campaign.
We hit you in your pocket book, and we hit you big time, so don't drink and drive.
claims manager, Cambrian Insurance Company
This public awareness campaign is implemented for two reasons; the first reason is to show respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives or who have been injured due to alcohol related crashes. The second reason is to remind people to drive soberly through the holidays and throughout the year.
This year, in addition to red ribbons, Action Sudbury is handing out thumb rings with the message Drive Aware, Not Impaired!
While Beaton touched upon the tangible effects of drinking and driving, others talked about the emotional impact.
Lisa Jelley, whose daughter, Caitlin, was killed by a drunk driver in 2009, spoke to the most horrific consequences that can result from the actions of someone who chooses to drink and drive. The story of how Caitlin and her two friend, Jazmine Houle and Steven Phillipe, were run down by a drunk driver is well-known, and its effects have been felt not only in Sudbury, but across the province.
She said she will never be able to find the words to describe how she felt the night police knocked on her door to tell her that her 15-year-old daughter had been killed by a drunk driver.
“It's a loss of indescribable magnitude,” she said. “There are still many nights where I lay in bed and play the events through my mind, from the knock on the door, to having to tell my son and Caitlin's father, to the hospital, where we had the horrific task of identifying our little girl's body.”
No parent should have to bury their child, she said. It's not the natural order.
“It didn't get to say goodbye; I didn't get to say I love her,” she said. “I carried her, gave birth to her, and watched with pride as she grew. I always thought I'd be able to protect her and teach her as much as possible.”
But, because someone chose to drink and drive, those dreams will never be, she said. Every day, there are reminders of Caitlin and how she was senselessly and selfishly taken away. The last image she has of her daughter is looking through a window after a blind was lifted, unable to touch Caitlin as she lay lifeless on a stretcher.
“The message (of drinking and driving) is out there loud and clear, yet why is it that we can still overhear conversations where people are celebrating the fact they avoided a spot check?,” she said. “Why do people remain silent and allow friends and family to get behind the wheel after drinking? What's it going to take to stop this senseless act?”
Even Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner said the penalties for drinking and driving, aside from insurance, aren't as harsh as they need to be.
A first conviction for impaired driving comes with a $1,000 fine and a one-year licence suspension, and that's when there was no collision, he said.
“I would love to see much harsher penalties for impaired driving,” he said. “The No. 1 cause of criminal cause of death in this country is drinking and driving, and it far exceeds that of homicides.”
If the number of homicides in Canada rivalled that of impaired drivers, “the Canadian public would go berserk, they absolutely would not stand for it, and they'd think there was an epidemic of murders going on,” he said. “But for some reason, when people are killed in a drunk-driving crash — a criminal occurrence — we don't have the same level of outrage. I think we have to start changing the channel on this, and start staying this is as important, if not more important, than homicide.”
He reiterates the fact drinking and driving is a selfish act. People make the decision to drink, he said, then they make the decision to get behind the wheel and drive.
“Everyone thinks it isn't going to happen to them, and that they need to get their vehicle home for some foolish excuse — and that's what they are, foolish excuses — and that's what makes it a selfish act. It's selfish, because they think that their need to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking outweighs the safety of everyone else.”