Getting Back on the Road after a DUI

A DUI conviction can completely shake a person’s world. Not only are there legal consequences that could affect someone for the rest of his or her life, but a DUI could take a huge emotional toll – especially if someone has been injured.

Recovering from a DUI charge will take time. There is a long to-do list before a person can return to the road, from court procedures to community service and driver education classes, the process could take months or even years. Although driving after a DUI may seem like a daunting task with a dozen things to do, the freedom of driving is well worth the work you’ll need to put in.

If you’re eager to start driving again after a DUI, here are some of the most common questions about the process of returning to the road. Ensure that you cover your requirements and prepare yourself to drive again so you can hop behind the wheel again without any worries.

When can I get back on the road?

You’ll be able to return to driving when you reinstate your license and complete any jail time or other court-mandated requirements. This depends greatly on the state you live in, your age and your BAC level; a minimum license suspension typically ranges between 30 days and one year, but could be longer. Jail time varies widely, too, between no state-mandated jail time up to a year. Check out to see your state’s rules.

How long will a DUI affect me?

Once you complete all the necessary steps and are legally allowed to drive again, your DUI will still impact your life. A first-time DUI conviction will stay on a person’s record for about five to 10 years, depending on the state. Some have harsher penalties. In Florida a DUI will stay on your record for 75 years, and in Alaska it’s there for life. A DUI can affect insurance rates and employment opportunities for years after you’ve returned to driving sober.

What do I need to know before getting back on the road?

Driving after a DUI can be an emotional experience. If there was a traumatic accident, anxiety might linger. Maybe substance use is still a temptation, and you don’t feel stable to drive yet. For any number of reasons, don’t get back on the road before you are ready. Allow yourself the time to recover and make accommodations for alternate transportation.

Many states will require a traffic safety course or drug and alcohol abuse education, and although it may seem like a tedious step in the process, these programs are designed to help drivers feel a sense of safety and security about returning to the road. A refresher course will help you to learn about how substances impair brain functioning and reaction time, as well as some tips for staying vigilant behind the wheel.

Before you start driving again after a DUI, remember to tune up your vehicle. You and others will be safest when you’re driving a car that’s in good working condition, and if you haven’t been on the road for a while (due to jail time or license suspension) you’ll want to make sure everything is functioning how it should. 

How can I avoid triggers to drinking and driving?

After all the fines, court dates and emotional pain of a DUI, you might be thinking you’ll never be tempted to drink and drive again. Although the thought of it may repulse you at first, those opportunities to use substances and drive will creep back into your life at some point.

Staying on guard against your triggers and setting up systems to prevent you from falling into bad habits can help you to stay safe on the road. Consider installing an ignition interlock device (if you haven’t been court-ordered to already) so that you won’t be able to operate your car under the influence. Make use of ride-hailing apps and when push comes to shove, hide your keys or stay the night at a friend’s.

What can I do to avoid a second DUI?

The best way to steer clear of the long list of financial, legal, emotional and social consequences of a DUI is to avoid drinking or using drugs in the first place. If you already have a DUI, you’ll also want to avoid a second offense to preserve yours and others safety and to avoid worse penalties. Getting help for your drug or alcohol problem is the smartest way to put yourself on a better path.

Reach out for professional help if you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge. Drinking and driving may have been a one time thing, but it could also be indicative of a deeper issue. Get started with intervention as soon as possible to handle the effects of a DUI and prevent another conviction in the future. A mental health professional can also help you to manage your triggers to usage and plan strategies to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

If you’re ready to enjoy the freedom of driving again after a DUI, getting help for substance use is the most important step you can take. If you’ve been affected by a DUI and are serious about changing your life around, reach out to Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling. Getting help for substance use is also a call away at 1-800-809-2925.