Is this a trend? The DUI arrests made in Orange County during the 2016 New Year’s holiday was almost half the number of DUI arrests during the 2015 New Year’s holiday. Los Angeles County also saw a decrease in DUI arrests although not as sharp a decline as that in Orange County. So too in San Diego where DUI arrests were slightly down from last year. This might be explained by fewer checkpoints this year than last but there is also the possibility that the increasing popularity of ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are encouraging more people to leave the car keys at home on New Year’s Eve.

In fact, several studies have indicated that ride sharing programs are directly responsible for a decrease in drunken driving crashes among drivers under the age of 30 and a 3.6 to 5.6 percent decline in deaths caused by drunken driving. The research was conducted by studying DMV records from different markets before ride sharing entered that market and comparing those records to records after ride sharing entered each particular market studied.

While the verdict is not in, early studies do suggest that ride sharing programs can take credit for a decrease in drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving agree: “We definitely do believe that Uber, or any other ride-sharing company, has helped us in our fight against drunk driving,” said Natasha Thomas, a program director for MADD.. “They offer reliable, right-to-the-minute services to help people get home safe instead of getting behind their wheels intoxicated,” she added.

Indeed, MADD partnered with Uber to study whether ride sharing apps were correlated to a decrease in drunken driving. According to their study, among drivers under 30 years of age, drunk-driving related crashes fell 6.5 percent in California markets after the introduction of Uber. MADD is solidly behind the expansion of ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft and believes that as these programs become more popular, drunken driving incidents will decrease.

There is reason to agree. Ride sharing apps make it easier to find a safe ride home, especially in cities where taxis aren’t ubiquitous, which is most cities in the United States and is certainly true of Southern California cities. Ride sharing is also often cheaper than a taxi and the smart phone technology makes getting a ride one seamless action, from summoning the driver to payment. Especially for the younger crowd, which is more apt to be out partying and more comfortable with smart phone technology, ride sharing has the potential to cause a sea change on our late-night roads.

Uber and Lyft are the first successful ride sharing apps out of the starting gate but more companies are entering this breakthrough market. While there is pushback from the traditional taxi companies, just like the buggy whip makers, the taxi companies will eventually accept the new paradigm and adapt to the changes, or disappear. As the joint MADD/Uber Report suggests by its title: ” More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices.”