Edmonton, AB,

Paying the price - the true cost of an impaired driving charge

When an impaired driver crosses that dotted line, the cost can be deadly. As thousands of Alberta families have learned the hard way, one individual's poor choices or blurred judgement can leave a legacy of trauma that impacts innocent victims across generations.

But how much does an impaired driving charge cost the driver? In addition to the emotional pain and embarassment of a criminal record and having to explain the charges to friends and family, does an impaired driving hit most drivers where it counts, square in the pocketbook?

From fines and fees to lost income and extra transportation costs, AMA crunched the numbers to calculate the financial hit of an impaired driving charge. Of course every situation is different, but we did the math to see how a 30-year old male driver of a new Jeep Wrangler with a clean driving record might fare. 

For more than 30 years, AMA has operated the Alberta Impaired Drivers Program (AIDP) on behalf of the Government of Alberta, helping convicted impaired drivers earn their driving privileges back through education. We've learned that impaired drivers don't fit easy stereotypes - they range from young to old, urban to rural, male to female. The one thing they seem to share is a sense of surprise at how expensive their poor judgement is once they see those flashing lights pulling them over.

"Until you've been through it, it's hard to understand just how financially devastating this can be, not just to the driver but to their spouse, their kids," explains Jeff Kasbrick, VP of Government and Stakeholder Relations for AMA. "You pay for the towing, the impound fees, the lawyers and the mandatory education course. It costs over $1400 to install and remove the ignition interlock device. There are taxi fares or transit passes to get to work and if you drive for a living you could lose your income entirely. Your insurance premiums are going to go way up."

It all adds up to a hefty financial cost, but for many of the convicted impaired drivers who end up in AIDP, those financial pressures are just a small part of the picture.

"Imagine sitting down with your kids and explaining there's not going to be a summer holiday or money for hockey this year. Or telling your partner that you need to dip into your wedding or retirement fund to pay for your mistake," says Kasbrick. "The extra financial burden can break up marriages and pull apart families. It's hard to pay back that trust once it's broken."

Learn more about AIDP courses Crossroads, Planning Ahead and IMPACT on the AMA website. Find Alberta's legal limits, penalties and information about Alberta's zero-tolerance approach for GDL drivers at KnowTheLimits.ca