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Does Uber Reduce Drunk Driving?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2016 | Drunk Driving

Guess what? Drunk driving has not been reduced by the popularity of Uber taxis, new research has found. The study debunks the theory that those who have over imbibed use their smartphones to arrange a safe route home instead of getting behind the wheel themselves. You would think it would be a no-brainer. The ride-hailing service picks up the usual Friday and Saturday night crowds of inebriated partiers, preventing them from drinking and driving. Thus the conclusion would be that Uber saves lives. It’s a claim the company has made repeatedly, as recently as this past 4th of July. On its website it says cities with Uber have “fewer drunk drivers on the streets.” . According to Uber, surveys that it has done indicated that 80 percent of participants declared that they found the company’s services helpful in preventing them from driving drunk. This was a statement it made early in July when it partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), as well as local law enforcement agencies in over 25 cities. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness regarding the dangers of drunk driving, Digital Trend reports.

But a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found no obvious impact on the number of drunk driving fatalities in cities where Uber runs. “Obviously the rise of Uber and Lyft has been incredible, and we were curious about potential implications,” said David Kirk, from the University of Oxford, who coauthored the study.

Kirk and his coauthor Noli Brazil looked at drunk driving statistics in the 100 most populated metro areas in the United States for 2009 through 2014. It found that the rise of Uber didn’t relate to any decrease in fatalities, overall or during peak drinking times like weekend nights. According to the study, there could be a number of reasons that Uber may not have a visible impact on drunk driving.

· Many drunk people take an Uber home at the end of a wild night out, but it may be an alternative to taxis or public transportation, not their own cars.

· Drunk drivers, who are already less rational, may be hesitant to pay for a ride home when they can drive for free without getting caught. Even though there are 121 million incidents of drunk driving in the U.S. every year, only 1.1 million people are arrested for it.

· The actual number of Uber drivers is still too small to make a dent in the 10,000 people who die annually in the United States in drunk driving accidents. There are hundreds of thousands of Uber drivers on the clock each month in the U.S., but there are still 4.2 million people who drive drunk every month.

· Another factor could be that the study was in large cities where there are already alternate forms of transportation and the Uber might have a larger immediate impact on smaller cities where taxi and bus service isn’t common.

Regardless, Uber insists its service can help decrease drunk driving. It regularly references another study that shows a 3.6% to 5.6% decrease in drunk driving deaths in California.

The researchers Krk and Brazil aren’t ruling out the idea that ride-hailing companies could have an impact in the future. “It will be important to revisit the findings in a few years, assuming Uber and Lyft have even greater presence in the U.S. and beyond,” said Kirk, noting Uber’s largest U.S. competitor, which was not included in this study. “And if Uber and Lyft can find a way to have greater appeal to drunk drivers (free or reduced priced rides for inebriated passengers), then there is a possibility of bringing fatalities down.”

But the services shouldn’t be a substitute for taking other actions to minimize drunk driving, says Kirk. Like funding more late night public transportation options, raising taxes on alcohol, and increasing police enforcement of drunk driving.

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of an accident resulting from a drunk driver, please contact us at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation at (850)659-2252 or through our website at



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