Every day on this nation’s streets and highways, about 300,000 people drive while intoxicated, 10,000 people are killed in alcohol-related accidents, and thousands more sustain devastating injuries. In 2014, the executives at Uber decided to find out if the ridesharing service was having any impact on drunk driving in Seattle. Before Uber entered the Seattle market in 2013, an average of 7.6 drivers were arrested every day in Seattle for driving under the influence – about 2,750 a year. By using statistics available to the public, Uber discovered that DUI arrests in Seattle have declined by ten percent since Uber began operating there.
A second, just-released study – conducted by Uber in cooperation with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – suggests that Uber and the other new app-based transportation services are also reducing the number of drunk driving incidents in California. That’s actually a surprise, given the number of taxicabs, limos, buses, and car services that have been available for decades in this state, but apparently a lot of people find that using ridesharing apps are convenient and prefer their services to taxi services.
The new report, titled “More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices.” shows that consumers not only consider ridesharing services convenient, but it also suggests that ridesharing is having a significant and positive impact in the effort to reduce drunk driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities. California is Uber’s home state and oldest market, so observers are hoping that California’s statistics can be emulated in other markets and states as ridesharing expands in the years to come.
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS ABOUT RIDESHARING AND DUI?
Following the launch of “UberX” in California – a discounted Uber service that does not necessarily provide luxury vehicles – alcohol-related traffic accidents fell 6.5 percent among drivers under 30 in the California markets where UberX operates. That means about sixty fewer alcohol-related accidents each month, or a total of about 2,700 crashes that have been avoided in California since July 2012.
The researchers also conducted a survey of consumer opinions and attitudes about ridesharing services. Of the respondents to the survey, 78 percent said, “their friends” are less likely to drive after drinking now that ridesharing services like Uber are available in their market. A remarkable number of people responding to the survey – 93 percent – said that they would suggest Uber to friends who are drunk and need a ride home.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF RIDESHARING NATIONALLY?
The new report determined that ridesharing is significantly impacting traffic safety across the country, offering consumers more transportation options if their plans include a few drinks with friends. Which meant fewer people had to reach out to a Los Angeles car accident lawyer. In Miami, for example, Uber use peaks at the same hours when DUI arrests had peaked in previous years. The report also offers evidence of Uber’s positive impact on public safety in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and other major markets. Uber’s first year in Tampa made an even more dramatic effect on DUI figures. In the first six months of 2014, Tampa police made 1,124 DUI arrests. In the same six months in 2015, only 776 DUI arrests were made.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Colleen-Sheehey Church responded to the findings in the report by saying, “With so many reliable and accessible options at people’s fingertips, there are no more excuses to drink and drive. Uber’s proven commitment to keeping the roads safe is critical to helping us create a future of no more victims.” David Plouffe, a Senior Vice President at Uber, said, “This study shows us that when empowered with more transportation options, people are making safer, better choices that are helping save lives.”
IS THERE INDEPENDENT RESEARCH ABOUT RIDESHARING?
If you’re thinking that maybe Uber is producing studies to make the ridesharing industry look good, there’s independent verification – from researchers at Temple University – of the findings in the Uber reports. A team at Temple University’s Fox School of Business scrutinized California’s DUI data from the years 2009 through 2014. The researchers determined that when Uber enters a market, alcohol-related traffic fatalities immediately drop by about two percent.
That number sounds small, but the Temple researchers estimated that if Uber operated nationally, about 500 fewer lives would be lost every year. The taxicab industry receives some criticism in the Temple University report because in some markets the industry has lobbied to limit competition and to keep ridesharing services from doing business. The report suggests that restricting competition limits the transportation options of consumers and in effect means more impaired motorists on the streets and highways.
Uber’s findings in Austin – one of the few cities that makes data regarding the taxicab industry available to the public – show that the average number of available taxis actually drops after midnight. It’s a restriction that benefits a small number of veteran taxicab drivers, but it also leaves many ride-seekers without rides – and thus more apt to make a bad choice about driving under the influence. The taxi industry enforces similar restrictions in scores of markets, although few precise statistics are maintained or made available.
It can’t be said loudly or frequently enough – the best way to avoid a DUI charge is to avoid drinking and driving. Anyone who’s charged with a DUI in Southern California will need to retain services of an experienced Los Angeles DUI defense attorney, but Uber, Lyft, and the other new app-based rideshare services add to the options that Californians have for avoiding a DUI charge. Always plan your transportation ahead of time if you’re going to enjoy several drinks with friends. Uber and Lyft will charge you a few dollars, but the consequences of a DUI conviction in California are far costlier.
WHAT DOES A DUI CONVICTION COST?
The minimum fine for a misdemeanor, first-offense DUI conviction in California is $390, and the maximum fine is $1,000, but the court will also add “assessments” and “penalties” that can exceed the amount of the formal fine. Also in California, most convicted first-time DUI offenders are ordered to attend a three-month DUI program – and pay “tuition” – that will cost about $600. After a six-month driver’s license suspension, a convicted offender will have to pay the Department of Motor Vehicles a $125 reinstatement fee. In some counties, a convicted DUI offender is also required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle. The installation costs about $100, and there’s a monthly fee.
Frankly, with so many ride services and options now available, there’s really no reason to be charged with a DUI in Southern California. Ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber are keeping California streets safer, and if you call a rideshare service in Southern California, you won’t end up having to call a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. Uber, Lyft, and their lesser-known competitors are now constantly expanding into more markets. That’s good news, and not just for people seeking rides, but for everyone traveling on the nation’s streets and highways.