Driving while under the influence, or a DUI, is arguably one of the most egregious acts one can commit while driving a vehicle, in the eyes of the police and car insurance agencies especially. For years, governments and police forces around the world have been striving to eradicate this problem and, for the most part, have largely been succeeding. That said, there are still people driving while under the influence. For some, it can be too tempting or easy to get in the car and drive home after having a few drinks, despite the risks. For those that do drive while under the influence, there are a number of things you should consider before doing so, including what the penalties will be and how insurers will react to a DUI.
Defining DUIs in Hong Kong
First, it would be a good idea to define what exactly a DUI is according to Hong Kong law. From the way the police describe it, there are actually two types of DUI you can be charged with in Hong Kong:
Drink driving - The act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (can be either drinking while driving, or driving after drinking). If Hong Kong, you will be criminally charged if your blood alcohol level is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath. This limit is among the lowest in the world.
Drug driving - As the name suggests, this is the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of illicit drugs like marijuana, ketamine, etc., and under the influence of other drugs that can impair the ability to operate a vehicle i.e., any prescription or over the counter drug that says you should not operate motor vehicles while taking. In Hong Kong, any concentration of these drugs in your blood stream is considered an offence, regardless of whether they affect you or not.
While many of us learn not to drink and drive, or do drugs and drive in school and while learning how to drive, the temptation for some is still there. In fact, according to the Hong Kong Police, in the first half of 2015 there were 440 drivers convicted of driving drunk, and 17 drivers arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs.
Should you be caught and issued with a DUI there are a number of penalties you could be facing.
Penalties for driving while drunk
In Hong Kong, penalties are among the strictest in the world, and are administered on a tiered scale that is based on the amount of alcohol in your breath, urine, or blood:
Tier one is what the Police refer to as the 'prescribed limit' (22 micrograms, 50 milligrams, and 67 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of your breath, blood, or urine respectively and 35 micrograms, 80 micrograms, and 107 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of your breath, blood, or urine respectively). Your first offence will come with a six-month suspension of license. Any further convictions will see your license suspended for two years.
Tier two is above the maximum measurements in Tier one, but less than 66 micrograms, 150 milligrams, and 201 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of breath, blood, and urine respectively. Your first offence will see your license suspended for one year, with subsequent offences seeing it suspended for three years.
Tier three is anything above the maximum limits of Tier two. Your first offence will come with a two-year suspension, while subsequent suspensions will be for five years.
All convictions above will also come with a fine (maximum of HKD 25,000) or jail sentence (up to three years). You will also be required to attend a driving course and incur 10 demerits on your license.
Penalties for drug driving
Unlike drink driving, driving while under the influence of drugs follows a somewhat simpler penalty system. For drivers who are convicted, you will be facing a fine of up to HKD 25,000, imprisonment of up to three years, and a driving disqualification from between six months to five years, based on the severity of the crime and what drug you were taking.
Repeat offenders may see their license taken away permanently and increased jail sentences.
Will insurers raise premiums if I get a DUI?
If you are convicted of a DUI, your insurer will undoubtedly raise your premiums. While there is no set percentage your car insurance premium will increase by, it is not uncommon to see it increase by at least 100% after the first infraction. This appears to be a fairly common increase in many countries including the US, where a recent report found that the average premium increase for a DUI in the country was around 94%.
Should there be subsequent infractions, insurers may refuse to underwrite you, meaning you will not be able to secure coverage after your suspension is over. If you can't secure coverage, then any driving done will be considered illegal.
It is also important to note here that if you are found to be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and are in an accident, the vast majority of car insurance plans in Hong Kong will not cover any damages. This means that you will be required to pay for damages out of your pocket.
If you get a friend to drive your car because you have had too much to drink, then you should be aware that if they are in an accident in your car, you could be held liable as the insurance for the vehicle is in your name.
With Hong Kong's strict rules on drink and drug driving, it is always better to take public transit or a taxi if you are going to drink or take drugs. If you have any questions about your insurance, please contact us today.