Has Uber Decreased Drunk Driving?

In recent months, we’ve seen the giant ride-sharing company Uber partner with various organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement agencies to raise awareness about drunk driving in more than 25 US cities. The ride-hailing company has frequently claimed it has conducted surveys that show more than 80% of people report Uber helps them avoid drunk driving.

The company itself says that cities where Uber operates have “fewer drunk drivers on the streets.” While this might be true, a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found contrary results. There is no apparent impact on the drunk driving fatalities in cities where there is Uber.

Results of the Study

The growth of Uber and Lyft has been incredible over the years. More and more people are opting to take Uber to get to their destinations. However, the researchers behind the study, David Kirk and Noli Brazil, wanted to know about the impact Uber had on the drunken driving statistics. The two researchers took data on drunk driving statistics from 100 of the most populated cities in the US from 2009 through to 2014.

The results, however, were not as what Uber was claiming. The study showed the rise of Uber wasn’t consistent with any drop in fatalities generally or even during prime drinking times such as the weekend nights.

Reasons Uber May Not Be Having a Visible Impact Nationwide

Why hasn’t Uber had much of an impact on reducing drunk driving? Let’s take a look at some possibilities:

  • Uber is a taxi alternative – Many people take an Uber home after a crazy night out when they’ve had too much to drink. However, this doesn’t always mean these people would take an Uber over their own cars. Many people view Uber as an alternative for public transportation or taxis rather than their own vehicles.
  • Intoxication can lead to irrational behavior – Intoxicated drivers may be more hesitant to pay for an Uber rather than drive themselves home for free. This along with the thought that they may be able to drive home drunk and not get caught is yet more motivation on their side. According to statistics published by Mothers Again Drunk Driving (MADD), the number of drunk driving accidents in the US is up to 121 million every year, with only 1.1 million people being arrested for the crime. That is less than a 1% arrest rate.
  • Uber’s drivers are outnumbered – The number of Uber drivers is certainly up, reaching the hundreds of thousands each month. This is no small feat. However, that number is still too low to measure up to the 4.2 million drunk people who are on our roads every month.

However, not all is lost on what Uber is doing for our roads. Research conducted by Brad Greenwood by Temple University has shown a decrease in drunk driving deaths in California (3.6% – 5.6%) due to the use of the popular service. Many people are also slowly embracing the culture of having a wild night out and using an Uber instead of driving themselves. Even though the reach of Uber and similar companies like it is growing every day, they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for taking other actions to curb an alcohol addiction.

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The Addiction Blog