With the popularity of ride-sharing apps that make it convenient and inexpensive to “hail” a ride in most urban areas, common sense would say that the incidence of DUI arrests and drunken driving accidents would decrease accordingly. After all, one of the best uses of these apps is to have a designated driver on-call. And, indeed, as I discussed in an earlier post on this blog, there are studies that preliminarily confirm that ride sharing apps have decreased the incidence of drunken driving and all the dangers associated with it, in particular the incidence of traffic fatalities caused by drunken drivers.
But a recent study found that the ride sharing apps have not had much of an impact at all on traffic fatalities, including those caused by drunken drivers. In a recent study released by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the University of Southern California and the Oxford University collected data for 100 different metro areas between 2005 (pre-ride sharing) and 2014. Controlling for a variety of factors that could affect the study, the researchers found that ride-sharing had no statistically significant impact on the number of drunk-driving fatalities. Several factors may explain these results. In particular, ride sharing vehicles represent a tiny percentage of the vehicles on the road. Additionally, the judgment of a driver who has had too much to drink may affect the driver’s ability to understand that he or she should let someone else do the driving.
While this study got quite a bit of press, it seems to be the only one so far that has found no impact—at least as far as drunk driving fatalities—since the advent of ride-sharing. Then again, it seems to be the only well-designed study so far on this question.
Uber started up operations in 2009; Lyft didn’t begin operations until 2012. While these ride-sharing apps and others have seen exponential growth in their popularity, they still account for very few vehicles on the road on any given weekend night when DUI incidents are most likely to occur.
Now it is true that taxis have always been available in most urban areas but ride-sharing is more convenient and usually less expensive than taxis. The ease of ride-share apps has certainly put many people, who would have rarely or never taken a taxi, in a car for hire. This might be especially true in a place like Orange County. You would expect ever greater numbers of would-be drunken drivers to hail a ride-share for his or her night on the town. I believe that over time, that is exactly what we will see more of.
As DUI statistics and DMV statistics on injury and deaths caused by drunken driving accumulate over time, I think we will see a decrease in these statistics for many reasons, not the least of which, is ever-increasing use of ride-sharing apps.
William Weinberg is an attorney with over 20 years experience defending DUI cases. He is available to speak with you about your particular DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.