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Consequences of Drinking and Driving Can Be Costly

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RALEIGH — Casual drinkers make up the majority of first-time DWI cases. As New Year's Eve approaches, police say casual drinkers need to think twice about drinking and driving.

A first time drunk driving charge may seem like no big deal, but people who have been there say it is an expensive and embarrassing lesson.

"Well, the embarrassment factor was the first thing that popped into my mind, and the stigma of really having a criminal record," says one man convicted of driving drunk.

Defense attorneys say convicted drunk drivers lose their licenses for a year and pay dearly to resolve their cases.

"I think a lot of people think that the first time is a slap on the wrist, but really there's a lot of financial cost," said Colleen Kochanek, a defense attorney.

A first time offender can expect to pay $1,130, which includes court costs, fines, related fees and attorneys' fees. In addition, the offender's car insurance skyrockets.

"If you get convicted of a drunk driving offense in North Carolina, you're going to pay a lot of money," said Jim Long,N.C. Commissioner of Insurance."You're going to be paying a 400 percent increase in your liability rates for three years."

"My insurance went from about $600 a year for a basic four-door Sedan to about $2,400 a year, said a man convicted of driving drunk.

If fear won't deter you, the cost and inconvenience may.

"Don't drink anything if you're going to drive," said Kochanek. "It's not worth the year of hassle, expense and cost of it.

In 1997, 85,000 people were charged with driving while impaired in North Carolina. Long said drunk drivers cost North Carolina $1 billion each year in health care costs.

It is estimated that two-thirds of those arrested for DWIs are social drinkers, not chronic alcohol abusers.

"You may mess up and drink too much," Long said. "But don't drive home. Get someone who's not been drinking, that designated driver, or call a taxi and get home safely."


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