Car insurance for drink drivers

Despite hard-hitting campaigns and tougher UK laws, around 5% of drivers admit to drink driving at least once. Read our guide to find out the drink driving penalties and how a conviction can affect your car insurance.

Despite hard-hitting campaigns and tougher UK laws, around 5% of drivers admit to drink driving at least once. Read our guide to find out the drink driving penalties and how a conviction can affect your car insurance.

Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 19 NOVEMBER 2021

How drink driving takes its toll

The latest figures from the Department for Transport show that in 2019, around 230 people were killed in Britain where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. In total, there were an estimated 7,800 casualties in drink-drive incidents in the UK.

There’s no excuse for drink driving – not only is it dangerous for you and other drivers, it could mean your insurance costs soar or you’re refused insurance altogether.

The only safe advice is to avoid alcohol altogether before getting behind the wheel. But if you’ve been convicted for drink driving and have served a driving ban, our guide can help you understand how your future car insurance may be affected.

Do I need to tell my car insurance provider about my drink driving conviction?

Yes, you need to tell your insurance provider when any of your circumstances change. It’s no different if you’ve been disqualified from driving. Never be tempted to hold this back from your insurance provider. If you do, your insurance could be invalidated.

To insure a car, you need to hold a valid driving licence. As soon as you receive a drink driving conviction (DR10 penalty) from the court, you’ll be in breach of your car insurance policy.

You’ll also need to inform your insurance provider if you’re given any penalty points. If you don’t tell them, they may cancel your policy without a refund. This also means a claim may be rejected and you’ll be left footing the bill yourself.

Can I get car insurance after I’ve been convicted for drink driving?

It’s difficult, but not necessarily impossible. While some insurance providers won’t cover motorists with a conviction, others specialise in this type of cover. 

You’re likely to have less choice of policy and provider, and the price may be higher, but it’s still worth shopping around to find the best deal you can.

Even if you’re not driving your car, unless you declare it off the road, it’s a legal requirement to have car insurance. This means you need to at least have third party insurance for your vehicle.

If you want to take your car off the road while you’re serving a driving ban – and if no one else will be using it – you’ll need to make a DVLA SORN notification. This means you won’t have to pay road tax for your car while it’s off the road.

Once you’ve served your driving ban, you’ll have to apply for your licence to be reissued. Then you can apply for a new car insurance policy or see if your current insurance provider will cover you once you’re ready to get back on the road.

How will a drink driving conviction affect the cost of car insurance?

A drink driving conviction is likely to significantly increase the cost of your car insurance premium. 

In fact, any criminal conviction, whether related to driving or not, can make insurance more expensive or hard to find. That’s because you’re seen as a greater risk, so more likely to have an accident and make a claim on your insurance policy. 

However, no matter how much more the premium is you still need to have insurance to legally drive. The costs could be much higher if you decide to drive without it. 

A drink-driving conviction could cost you thousands of pounds. That’s factoring in costs including solicitor’s fees, increased car insurance costs, fines and possible loss of employment.

How can I reduce the cost of car insurance if I have been convicted of drink driving?

There's a few things you can do to keep car insurance costs down after a drink-driving conviction:

Go on a drink-driving rehabilitation course: If your driving ban is for 12 months or more, the sentencing court may offer you the opportunity to take a drink-driving rehabilitation course. These courses are designed to educate people convicted of drink driving, with the aim that they don’t drink drive ever again.

It’s your decision whether or not to complete the course (which you’ll have to pay for yourself). Going on such a course might reduce the length of your driving ban by 25% and lower the cost of your future car insurance relative to what it might otherwise be for someone convicted of drink driving. 

On successful completion of the course you’ll be given a certificate. The certificate can help show insurance providers that you’re being proactive about not re-offending. So not only will you become a better driver, your premiums could go down too.

Pay a higher voluntary excess: offering to pay more for your excess – the cost to you when you make a claim – can mean paying less for your annual policy. Make sure you set an amount that you’ll be able to afford if you do have to make a claim, though. It’s pointless setting it so high that it becomes unaffordable.

Get a black box: lots of younger drivers use telematics – black box – policies to get a better car insurance deal, and it can also be helpful for convicted drink drivers. The box monitors your driving and its data is sent back to your insurance provider. The safer you drive, the cheaper your car insurance policy could be.

Lower your mileage: you’re most likely to suffer an accident or damage to your car when you’re on the road. That’s why the more mileage you do, the higher the risk. Driving fewer miles lowers the risk, and this can lower the cost of your insurance. But be honest with your insurance provider – if you’re driving more miles than stated, your policy may be void.

Increase your car’s security: the more secure your car has, the lower the risk of theft or damage. Taking steps to beef up your car’s security may mean you’ll pay less for insurance. For example, you might keep it in a locked garage or in a well-lit area with an immobiliser fitted.

Will drinking and driving invalidate my car insurance policy?

It depends on the situation. It won’t necessarily fully invalidate your policy. But if you have an accident while you’ve been drinking, you might find your insurance provider won’t pay out for any injuries you suffer or repairs to your vehicle. 

Your insurance provider must pay for the costs of claims by a third party – but they might try to reclaim these from you. To see exactly what you’re covered for and what you’re not covered for, check your policy.

Legal limits in the UK

Before you get behind the wheel, or consider having a drink, make sure you’re aware of the legal limits in the UK.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the alcohol limit if you’re driving is:

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in your body
  • 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine

In Scotland and most other European countries the legal limit is lower:

  • 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in your body
  • 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 67 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

How your body absorbs alcohol can depend on:

  • your sex, age, weight and metabolism
  • the type of alcohol you’re drinking
  • whether you’ve eaten or are drinking on an empty stomach
  • your stress levels at the time

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive safely. So even if you’re under the limit, you may not be safe to drive. It’s never worth risking and the safest thing to do is to not drink any alcohol if you’re going to be driving.

What are the penalties for drink driving in the UK?

If it’s not already clear, there’s no excuse or reason for drink driving. Here are just some of the possible penalties you could face if you’re caught driving over the legal limit:

  • up to six months in prison
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban of at least 12 months, or three years if you’ve been convicted twice in 10 years
  • a court referral to take a drink-drive rehabilitation course

If you cause death by driving under the influence of alcohol, you could face:

  • 14 years in prison
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least two years
  • an extended driving test before you could get your driving licence back

Other possible consequences of a drink-driving conviction include:

  • a DR10 endorsement that will remain on your licence for 11 years
  • significantly higher insurance premiums
  • losing your job, particularly if it involves driving
  • difficulty getting a visa to visit certain countries, including the USA

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