You've seen them along almost all of Pennsylvania's highways the signs saying "DUI You Can't Afford It."
You may think about it for a minute or two, but have you ever truly considered the cost of being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol?
Since the enactment of Act 24 in 2003, Pennsylvania has used a tiered approach to the penalties and requirements imposed on drivers caught drinking and driving. The tiers are based on the level of alcohol determined to be in someone's system, as well as if it's a first or multiple offense.
It also makes a difference if you are a minor, a commercial driver, a school bus driver or if you're involved in an accident.
Kyra Snyder, Schuylkill County's DUI administrator, says the public has no idea of the true financial cost of being stopped for DUI.
"It's not just a fine and court costs. There's so much more to it, including numerous fees, the loss of a driver's license and possible jail time. It really adds up into hundreds and hundreds of dollars."
You're celebrating a bit and have a few drinks with your meal or at that Fourth of July picnic at the neighbor's. You head for home, certain those drinks haven't affected your driving ability at all. But, just your luck, there's a DUI checkpoint or a roving DUI patrol standing between you and your bed. The officer stops you, leans in and notices there's an odor of alcohol coming from you, and your eyes look just a little bit shinier than normal.
Next thing you know, you're out of the car, performing field sobriety tests. You just miss your nose with that finger or stumble just a bit. Here's where you get to make your next choice go for blood work or refuse the test.
If you do the blood test and it comes back as a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.099 percent, you are considered "generally impaired." BACs of 0.10 to 0.159 percent are considered to be "high," while 0.16 or higher, or having a controlled substance in your system, will result in the "highest" designation with the harshest penalties.
If this is your first offense, and you're under 0.10, your luck has improved. You will probably be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, which means if you stay out of trouble for the next year, your record will be wiped clean. No problem, right?
Not exactly! Before that record gets wiped clean, you will have spent $300 in fines; $50 for a court reporting network evaluation; $50 for a drug and alcohol evaluation; and $175 to attend four classes at alcohol highway safety school. And there's that little matter of $50 a month to the probation department for monitoring those 12 months of ARD.
And don't forget the cost of the blood tests taken at a hospital. Oh yes, there's also the towing and impound fees if your vehicle was ordered towed away.
The fees and fines increase substantially if it's a second or third offense, or if the BAC is "high" or "highest."
Refusing the blood test throws the possibility of ARD out the window, opens up the door to increased fines and possible jail time, and means an automatic loss of your driver's license for at least one year.
There's also that pesky problem of having your driver's license suspended if the BAC is 0.10 or higher. Oh, and you will have to pay the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation a restoration fee to get your license back.
But wait, we forgot to add in the cost of an increase in your vehicle insurance.
Sue Smyrl, AAA Schuylkill Insurance Agency manager, said "Most standard insurance carriers will drop you if you are convicted of a DUI. Some companies impose surcharges or place you in a high-risk category to continue insuring you."
If you're thinking you just won't tell your insurance agent, you should know that almost all companies receive annual or biannual motor vehicle reports.
You have now spent well in excess of $1,200 for celebrating just a little too much.
So, before you have a drink or two and get behind the wheel of your vehicle, remember Snyder's advice, "It's just not worth it."