Uber ride-sharing prevented over 200 drunken driving deaths in 2019

The ride-sharing app Uber helped prevent more than 200 drunken driving-related deaths in 2019, according to economists who had access to the company's proprietary data.

“When we do the analysis with that neighborhood-level data, which no one else has used before, we find … neighborhoods that saw increases in Uber see decreases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities,” said David Lucas, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-author of the report.

Lucas and fellow Berkeley economist Michael Anderson, whose paper was published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that Uber saved 214 people who would have died in a drunken driving accident in 2019, marking a reduction in deaths of about 6.1% from the year before. Traffic deaths in the United States overall declined by 4%.

The app’s effects on decreasing alcohol-related traffic deaths were most apparent during nights and weekends when people were most likely to be out drinking and needed a safe ride home.

“To the extent that ridesharing is a better substitute for driving for dining and entertainment trips, ridesharing activity should have stronger effects during the night than day,” the economists reported.

While the NBER study did not include data from other platforms, such as Lyft, Lucas said, “I don't think Lyft would be substantively different than Uber.” According to a June analysis from Bloomberg, more people, roughly 61%, used Uber in April, compared to about 26% who exclusively used Lyft.

This is not the first study that tried to measure the ride-sharing app’s effects on traffic deaths, but Lucas said previous studies had produced mixed results. For instance, a 2016 report out of the University of Southern California concluded that the entry of Uber services in major metropolitan areas did not have any noticeable effects on traffic fatalities due to drunken driving or traffic fatalities overall.

Other studies cross-referencing DUI records with growing Uber ridership in large cities found that the platform had a hand in preventing fatal drunken driving accidents. A team of physicians at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, for example, analyzed DUI arrests and severe or fatal drunken driving-related trauma in the city between 2007 and 2019. Uber entered the Houston market in February 2014, and UT doctors found that the ride-sharing platform contributed to a 23.8% decrease in motor-vehicle collisions on Friday and Saturday nights. DUI arrests also decreased across the board, most notably on weekends.

Over 10,000 people died in drunken driving accidents in 2019, down by about 5.3% from the year before, according to data compiled by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Internal polling at Uber also found that at least 80% of riders said Uber has helped them avoid driving drunk and risking injury. One major caveat to NHTSA data is that police do not always measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system, and the actual death count is likely higher.

“Some fatal crashes with no reported alcohol involvement nevertheless involve alcohol, and we also estimate models that specify any fatal crash as the dependent variable,” the authors of the report said.

The report did not measure the effect of access to public transportation and taxis on drunken driving deaths, which is hard to estimate. Many states with high rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths, such as Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas, have urban centers where buses, trains, and taxis are easy to find. But states with the lowest rates of traffic deaths linked to alcohol, such as Massachusetts and New York, also have large urban centers where alternatives to driving are easily accessible.

Still, the report’s authors concluded that Uber’s presence in any given city “can play an important role in reducing these deaths.”

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Tags: Healthcare, News, Uber, Lyft, Drunken Driving, Apps

Original Author: Cassidy Morrison

Original Location: Uber ride-sharing prevented over 200 drunken driving deaths in 2019