Everyone knows that DUIs have a high price, both personal and financial. Not only do alcohol-related accidents kill thousands of people – 10,322 in 2012 – but they cost about $199 billion per year. Betweenlegal and insurance penalties, those convicted of drunk driving pay a high price, too –but how much?In a recent study, NerdWallet analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita in the 150 largest cities. We then compared it to our own data on insurance premiums for drivers convicted of DUIs, and came to a surprising conclusion.

Because laws and insurance premiums vary from city to city and state to state, drivers convicted of a DUI in Omaha won’t find themselves facing the same consequences as those convicted of a DUI in Detroit. However, the cities where drunk driving is the most fatal are often not those in which drivers face the most severe insurance consequences.  What cities see the most fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita?

California drivers cause more than their share of fatal alcohol-related crashes, with four cities in the state in the top 10. The South also ranks high, with Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee all contributing a city. The complete top 10, based on NHTSA data, is as follows:

  • San Bernardino, California
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Riverside, California
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Lubbock, Texas
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Fresno, California
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Sacramento, California
  • Little Rock, Arkansas

Of these, San Bernardino takes the top spot by far, with a rate of 0.4368 fatal alcohol-related crashes per 1,000 residents between 2010 and 2012. This is 1.5 times the rate of the next city on the list, and nearly six times the national average (0.0731). The other cities in the top 10 also see substantially higher fatality rates than the national numbers. Mobile has four times more fatal alcohol-related crashes than the national average, and Knoxville has nearly three times as many. Even Little Rock’s rate of fatal alcohol-related crashes is almost twice the national average.

How much do drivers pay for drunk driving?

Everyone agrees that drunk drivers should be punished severely. In many states, those convicted of drunk driving receive an automatic license suspension or revocation, and once they are able to drive again, they’ll pay higher insurance premiums. Nationally, the average driver convicted of a DUI will experience a 75.3% premium increase. This works out to $857.53 in dollar terms each year. The exact increase, though, varies greatly between states and cities. A driver in San Bernardino will pay about 135.06% more per year for car insurance after a DUI ($1,282.43), while a driver in Omaha will only pay 3.76% more ($45.26).

In some cases, cities with high rates of fatal alcohol-related crashes also have high insurance increases. For example, drivers in the four most dangerous California cities for DUIs see an average increase of more than 100% in their car insurance after a DUI. Riverside drivers see the largest increase, at about 140.16%, and San Bernardino drivers see the smallest, at a still-whopping 135.06%.

Every other city in the top 10 experiences below-average insurance increases for DUIs, with Tulsa’s increases being the lowest. Those convicted of a DUI in Tulsa get a 42.34% premium hike, from about $1,472.03 to about $2,095.36. That said, Tulsa has higher insurance premiums for safe drivers than some other states in the top 10. In other cases, a relatively low increase comes on top of a relatively low base rate. Spokane drivers with a DUI will pay 55.58% more for car insurance, resulting in an average premium of $1,298.96 – less than a safe driver in Tulsa.

The bottom line

Drivers should avoid drinking and driving because it is dangerous. But if danger is not enough to deter potential drunk drivers, they should think about the possible financial ramifications of drunk driving. Even though drivers face smaller car insurance hikes in some cities than others, the overall financial burden will still be hefty. A drunk driving arrest and conviction can cost up to $24,000—that’s a lot of money for one mistake.