The Effects of Riding Sharing Services on DWI Prevention

Those of us who were raised in the 1960’s and 1970’s were often shown dazzling visions of the future, from flying cars to robotic house maids. During this time period, several cartoon television shows and other forms of mass media depicted a future of ease and comfort where almost any desire was behind the simple push of a button. In today’s modern age, cars don’t usually float in mid-air, but we have managed to get one of those seemingly far-fetched ideas from our once romanticized future.

Now with the push of a button on a phone, any person with an application like Uber or Lyft can have a car that is ready to take them wherever they desire. One of the reasons that people use these ride sharing services is because they do not want to drink and drive. As a society, we are told about the heavy penalties of drunk driving and the tens of thousands of people who die every year in crashes due to drunk driving. With consequences like these, people are right to be scared when it comes to driving while intoxicated. This is why Uber has teamed up with organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has even claimed on their website; “Services like Uber—where passengers push a button and get a ride in minutes—are helping to curb drunk driving.” And while these sentiments are sincere and optimistic, we must look at the numbers. Do these ride sharing services really curb DWI rates?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2016, there is little to no correlation between the deployment of Uber services and subsequent traffic fatalities in a given metropolitan county. The study analyzed 100 of the most populated metropolitan areas in the United States. The study offered three alternate reasons as to why Uber may not reduce drunk driving. First, drivers are unlikely to get caught drinking and driving, and so purchasing an Uber may be more costly to some individuals than just driving themselves. Second, individuals who are intoxicated do not tend to make rational decisions. Third, the number of Uber drivers in a given market may still be far too small to have an influence on the more than 121 million incidents of drunk driving that occur every year.

On the contrary, Uber released its own study in 2015 that contended their services drastically reduce the rate of DWI occurrences nationwide. One portion of the study specifically targeted Uber’s effect on drunk driving in Seattle and found the services reduced DWI’s y 10%. The study stated; “the results were robust and statistically significant, providing meaningful evidence of the power Uber’s network of safe, reliable rides.” Many statisticians and researches have expressed distaste for Uber’s brazen declarations about the service’s impact on DWI prevention. After all, the company has every incentive to cherry pick data and make their company appear more helpful to the public — Uber has had a plethora of public scandals over the past few years. Noli Brazil, a postdoctoral research associate with the University of Southern California who wrote the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has been quoted saying; “The company made this claim that it made cities safer… we felt like there’s not enough people using Uber just yet to make that kind of claim.” While companies like Uber may have good intentions, claims that these ride sharing services are broadly reducing DWI rates are flimsy at best. This may seem to be an unfortunate conclusion to arrive at, but it’s always best to exercise caution, even if you have to pay for a ride, so that you don’t arrive at an unfortunate conclusion yourself – a DWI conviction. Additionally, Gibson Law, PLLC recommends the company Lyft rather than Uber for a variety of humanitarian reasons.