Has Uber Become an Anti-Drunk Driving Necessity?

It didn’t take Uber long to become popular. The app-based rideshare service and its competitors shed their novelty status quickly, becoming a necessity in urban centers, driven by younger city dwellers who are drawn to the convenience of being able to summon a ride with a smartphone.

Rideshare services have gotten free publicity from anti-drunk driving advocates who praise Uber, Lyft and other services as a realistic alternative to getting behind the wheel while impaired.

But has a lifestyle necessity become a public safety necessity?

It looks that way in East Hampton, Long Island. A new rule, which requires taxi companies operating in that town to have an office there, automatically shut down the San-Francisco-based firm, which operates very differently from traditional transport companies. Traffic congestion from an excess of cabs was given as the reason.

As soon as Uber was axed, town officials began receiving calls and emails, most of them with one theme: Uber is the designated driver of choice, and banning them will put more drunk drivers on the road.

So it looks as if people have incorporated Uber into their lifestyle, not just as a means of transport but as a means of enabling hassle-free partying. The removal of their lifeline means that East Hampton residents will have to go back to their old ways: designating a driver, hiring a traditional taxi, or phoning home for a pickup at the local tavern. None of which are as convenient as clicking on a smartphone screen.

However this turns out, it’s good that people have latched on to the idea of alternatives to drunk driving.  There was a time when people dismissed drunk driving as inevitable. Now they’re claiming designated drivers as a necessity, if not a right. That’s progress.