Reporters with the Washington Post recently took a look at DUI stats in a handful of cities where ridesharing apps, such Uber and Lyft, are in place. What they discovered has some prominent groups taking notice.
The analysis, published on the Post’s WonkBlog, took a look at DUI arrest rates in a handful of cities where ridesharing apps are utilized, and they found a correlation between when the ridesharing service launched and an actual decline in drunk-driving arrests.
Groups like MADD are now partnering with ridesharing companies to promote the advantages of these services. Over the July 4th holiday MADD issued a press release stating, “With easy, reliable and affordable alternative transportation options like Uber, there’s no reason for anybody to get behind the wheel while impaired.”
While cab companies have long promoted their services as a safe ride home, technology-driven ridesharing greatly simplifies the process, especially when you’re three sheets to the wind. These companies use smartphone apps to pinpoint the rider’s whereabouts via the phone’s GPS and automatically contact nearby drivers to schedule a ride. Rides can be provided by cabs or professional services, but they can also be any driver who has registered and been vetted by the service. Riders don’t need their exact address, and the fare is charged right to the credit card they entered via the app when signing up for service.
The WonkBlog reporters speculated that there might be a real connection between these services and DUI arrests as the apps particularly appeal to 20-somethings who are tech savvy and have the means to go out to bars. However, they were also quick to point out that many other factors might be at work, such as changes in drunk-driving enforcement, public transportation, and the economy.
Indeed, in their analysis of San Francisco, the reporters noted a large spike in drunk-driving arrests just as the economy soured, perhaps because people tend to drink more when things are bad. DUI rates started to decrease around the time the apps were introduced, but also around the time the economy began to improve. And in fact, DUI rates in San Francisco are still higher than they were in 2007.
Ultimately, anything that gives people another safe and easy alternative to driving after drinking is a positive, but whether ridesharing apps are the drunk-driving silver bullet their makers claim remains to be seen.