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October 08, 2017

Study: Do ride-share apps help cut drunk driving accidents?

Fatalities Ride Share
05212016_Uber_driver_TC Thom Carroll, File/PhillyVoice


Since the launch of ride-share apps such as Uber and Lyft have morphed the transport landscape of cities around the world, their effects on transportation, traditional taxis, and the sharing economy have been well documented.

But as opting for a ride has become easy access at the end of a long night, have the apps had a pivotal role in keeping drunk driving accidents from occurring?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine wanted to find out, looking at the use of ride-share apps on a case-by-cases in a handful of cities.

The results, it turns out, aren’t universal: while some areas saw a declination of drunk driving accidents since the dawn of rideshare, other cities showed differing data.

The study, published this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology, builds on previous studies that show mixed results for the role apps like Uber play in stopping people from driving while drunk. Alcohol is associated with a third of all vehicular fatalities in the U.S., according to Penn Medicine News.

Since Uber’s 2010 launch, it has conducted a reported two billion rides worldwide, and in 2015 Uber released a report claiming that its services had reduced drunk driving accidents. 

Penn’s study, as well as previous independent studies, show mixed results, however.

Penn’s researchers looked at State Department of Transportation data pertaining to Las Vegas, Portland, OR, Reno, NV, and San Antonio. The study specifically studied the influence of Uber and no other ride-sharing apps.

The regions were selected because they had Uber launch, cease, and then later resume, giving Penn the chance to compare stats from when Uber was and was not in service. The data studied ranged from 2013 to 2015 or 2016, depending on the region.

In Portland and San Antonio, alcohol-related car accidents decreased once Uber resumed service. Evidence suggesting the same in Reno was inconclusive.

“The observed variability may be due to the different conditions within these cities,” said senior author Douglas J Wiebe, Ph.D., in a statement.

“For example, in a denser urban center with congested traffic and limited parking, a person may be more likely to use a ridesharing service to get around.”

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