With one in three traffic deaths in the United States involving a drunk driver, Americans need all the help we can get in keeping people from driving while intoxicated. Ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, have marketed themselves as the solution to our problem with drunk driving.
However, have car-sharing services really made a difference? Maybe, but it might depend on where you live.
First, the Good News
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the number of drunk driving fatalities has been reduced by half since 1980. This, of course, is great news, and the CDC shares a number of factors that have contributed to this improvement, including a greater number of sobriety checkpoints and stricter drunk driving laws.
In reviews by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, strategies such as mass media campaigns, alcohol screening and intervention programs, and school-based instructional programs have also proven to be effective in reducing or preventing drunk driving.
Now, What About Uber?
It stands to reason that credit would be due to Uber and Lyft for giving people a practical way to get home safely after a night of drinking. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at the effects of ridesharing on alcohol-related car accidents. This had been done before, but what made this study unique was that it followed cities on an individual basis, rather than averaging all cities’ data together.
What the researchers found was that Uber usage did correlate with a reduction in drunk driving accidents, but only in certain cities. Portland, Oregon and San Antonio, Texas saw a drop in crashes involving alcohol of about 60 percent as Uber services launched. However, Uber’s presence did not affect the number of DUI accidents in Reno and Las Vegas.
A Surge in Popularity?
It sounds obvious, but you have to remember that drinkers aren’t known for their good judgment. It’s possible that the sensible thing—hailing a rideshare driver when you’ve had too much to drink—doesn’t factor for many drinkers.
What’s more, steep hikes in rideshare pricing during peak times (such as after last call) could deter people from using the service when they need it most. For drivers who didn’t plan ahead, the idea of leaving one’s car behind could be the limiting factor when deciding how to get home.
The study authors speculated that in more congested tourist areas like Las Vegas and Reno, drinkers might be more apt to use public transit and taxis over ridesharing apps, especially if they are cheaper and more accessible.
The law prohibits us from using our phones to text while we’re driving, but it doesn’t (yet) address the amount of mobile usage that Uber or Lyft drivers must do in order to do their jobs. The authors of the study suggested that the level of distraction that rideshare drivers have to contend with could result in a higher rate of crashes overall, even offsetting any possible reduction in DUI.
Or, it could be that the rideshare drivers themselves are drunk. Over the course of one year, Uber received over 2,000 complaints from Californian riders who believed their driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of the accused drivers were banned from working as Uber drivers.
Time Will Tell
Time will tell if ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are able to make a significant positive impact on the incidence of drunk driving accidents. What we do know is that alcohol-related car crashes continue to be a serious problem, both here in Worcester and across the United States. Please don’t drink and drive—it’s not worth the risk.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to receive compensation. With our help, you could get damages for your injuries, get help paying your medical bills and other expenses, and be reimbursed for lost wages from missing work. We offer a free and confidential initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Please contact the law offices of Worcester car accident attorney Peter Ventura today. We look forward to helping you.