New Data from California: More UberX Means Less Drunk Driving

uberx-prevents-drunk-drivingWhat’s the cure for drunk driving? Over the years we’ve found some pretty effective ways to bring down the numbers of impaired drivers on the road:

  • Policing. Enforcement techniques have gotten better, DUI patrols more plentiful, and public pressure to take drunks off the road more focused.
  • Public education. Awareness campaigns in schools and in the media have spread the message that drunk driving is lethal, reckless, and stupid.
  • Ignition interlocks. These devices, also called car breathalyzers, prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. States that require them for all DUI offenders bring down their rates of road fatalities considerably.
  • Treatment. More and more treatment options are available for people with alcohol problems, including court-mandated evaluation and alcohol counseling.

But there’s one more piece to the puzzle, and it’s a vital one:

  • Affordable alternatives. If drinkers can get where they’re going without getting behind the wheel at a reasonable price, everyone is better off.

Uber has been a prominent addition to the landscape of alternatives for a few years now. And a soon-to-be-presented study by Temple University’s Fox School of Business suggests that rideshare companies like Uber are preventing alcohol-related fatalities.

The study finds that when UberX, the company’s budget service, was introduced in various places in California, deaths due to alcohol-related collisions dropped by rates ranging from 3.6% to 5.6%.

The low-cost service was the key. Town cars and limo services didn’t have much effect, but having a cheap ride available at the tap of an app was apparently enough to dissuade drinkers from driving home.

The authors of the study conclude that, were affordable rideshare options available nationwide, some 500 lives could be saved every year.

Some of the methods for reducing drunk driving are aimed at DUI offenders. Policing, interlock devices, and treatment are useful for those who have broken the law. Education and rideshare alternatives like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar fill a different and essential role: they are meant to prevent drunk driving from occurring at all, by getting impaired people to avoid that fateful decision to get behind the wheel.  In places where public transit is not up to the task, we expect these services to grow and make roads safer, not just in California, but everywhere.