Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services have reduced the number of drunk driving accidents in some cities. Ride sharing apps make it easy for people to get a safe ride home if they have had too much to drink. However, a new report suggests that while ride-sharing services may help prevent drunk driving accidents, they may also be more effective in some cities than others.
According to Christopher Morrison, study author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Injury Science Center, Uber affects crashes differently based on the local characteristics of a city. For example, a city like Portland, Oregon has significantly more public transportation options than a city like Reno, Nevada. After a night of consuming too much alcohol, a Portland resident might choose to get home via public transportation, like a bus or a train, rather than use a ride-sharing service like Uber.
Morrison’s research team examined the car accident history and Uber availability between 2013 and 2016, focusing on Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas. They found that drunk driving accidents were reduced by approximately 60 percent in Portland, while there was no change in Reno. What surprised Morrison was that there was a reduction in drunk driving-related crashes in certain areas, but there was no reduction in crashes overall.
Why the Discrepancy?
There are many factors that could explain these differences. First, as mentioned, people in some cities may be more likely to use public transportation, while people in other cities may only have ride-sharing services to rely on. One benefit of this study is that is it will provide cities with useful information about the effects of ride-sharing in their specific area.
City officials can use this information to determine the costs and the benefits that these ride-sharing services may have on public health. Morrison added that the average effects from other locations may not give an accurate idea of how ride-sharing impacts drunk driving accidents in one specific city.
Regardless of the limitations of the study, accident-prevention experts appreciate the safety benefits of ride-sharing. Amy George, Senior Vice President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), believes that ride-sharing services make it easier than ever to avoid drunk driving. There is no excuse to drive drunk when a safe and sober driver can pick you up within minutes.
Russ Martin, Director of Government Relations with the Governors Highway Safety Association, said that despite the complex travel behavior that you see from city to city, ride-sharing can offer a great alternative to drunk driving, no matter where you live.
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