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December 22, 2017

Do ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft reduce drunk driving automobile accidents?

A person is injured in a drunk driving accident every two minutes. It is reported that two out of three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime, either as a victim or as one of the 28.7 million people that admit to driving with a substantial amount of alcohol in their system.  While it may seem like the obvious choice to take an Uber or Lyft after a night out drinking, we would hope that these services also help to greatly reduce the number of these deadly accidents that occur far too often.

Not only can a DUI or DWI charge lead to time in jail or probation, it also places the driver and everyone around them in danger.  Being drunk is tested by measuring the amount of alcohol in the blood.  Generally, registering 0.08% of alcohol in the blood or more will result in the driver being presumed to be intoxicated.  Intoxication can lead to lapse in judgment, slowness of movement, blurry vision, and other symptoms that alter thinking.

Intoxication can lead to a fatal car crash, the likes of which happen every day due to driving while under the influence of alcohol.  Every day in America, 29 people die as a result of drunk driving accidents.   Many groups and organizations, such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), Teens Against Drunk Driving, and IDDPA (International Drunk Driving Prevention Association) fight to raise awareness and offer drivers alternative routes and solutions to drinking and driving.

So where does ridesharing come in?  Ridesharing gained popularity after apps such as Uber or Lyft created an intuitive and effective way for customers to call a car right from their phone. The ease of paying with a credit card associated with the account also provides incentive.  Drivers are available at all times, and while concerns are being brought up about letting a complete stranger drive the rider around, the companies are working to increase the background checks and safety measure for their clients.  This seems an easy solution to prevent people who are out drinking from getting in a car and driving. Instead of endangering themselves and others, they pay a fee to not drive drunk.

Uber certainly believes in this and has reported declining drunk driving rates in major cities where Uber has set up services.  And a recent study backs this up; since the company extended its services to four of New York City’s boroughs, there has been a 25-35% decrease in the number of drunk driving incidents  compared to areas where Uber doesn’t operate. This is a significant decrease; adding up to almost 40 collisions a month in those areas.  Another report by Philadelphia’s Temple University found that mortality rates associated with drunk driving fell by about 5.6% in cities where Uber was used.

However, not all studies have produced the same evidence.  A recent study found in the American Journal of Epidemiology released evidence that looked at 100 populated cities and found no correlation between traffic fatalities and Uber services. While Uber most definitely provides a safer alternative to drinking and driving and 80% of riders feel that Uber has helped them avoid driving under the influence, there are reasons why the statistics do not match up.

First, the average individual who has consumed alcohol will most likely not be able to make the conscious choice to call an Uber or Lyft.  Alcohol impairs decision making and can cause irrational choices, including choosing to drive.  Second, the cost to pay for a ride can be too much for the person, causing them to just make the decision to drive.  These ridesharing services can cost a lot of money, especially going longer distances or in areas that are not in demand.  However, it is very evident that the fee to pay for a ride is much less than the fines racked up by getting charged with a DWI or DUI. And no amount of money can make up for the number of senseless deaths caused by alcohol intoxication.

Uber or Lyft are not definite solutions to the issue of drunk driving, but they provide more secure ways to get somewhere when inebriated. An Ohio judge known for handing out unusual sentences concurs, as he required defendants in a drunk driving case to download Uber or Lyft on their phone as punishment. While the statistics and studies on whether ride-sharing apps reduce drunk driving do not all agree, the apps are a surefire way to attempt to convince people to make the safer choice.  By Uber partnering with MADD, we hope their combined effort has a positive impact to prevent drunk driving. Even if Uber or Lyft prevents just one accident, that could be one life saved, and that is a step in the right direction.

Works Cited:


  • “Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ.” NOLO, www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/drunk-driving-dui-dwi-faq.html#answer-1738103. Accessed 19 June 2017.
  • Fortin, Jacey. “Does Uber Really Prevent Drunken Driving? It Depends on the Study.” The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2017, www.intoxalock.com/ignition-interlock-devices/statistics. Accessed 19 June 2017.
  • Hersher, Rebecca. “Uber Hasn’t Had an Effect on Drunken-Driving Deaths, Study Finds.” NPR, 29 July 2016, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/07/29/487906925/uber-hasnt-had-an-effect-on-drunken-driving-deaths-study-finds.  Accessed 19 June 2017.
  • “Ignition Interlock and Drunk Driving Statistics.” Intoxalock, 2017, www.intoxalock.com/ignition-interlock-devices/statistics. Accessed 19 June 2017.
  • Kelly, Heather. “Uber Doesn’t Decrease Drunk Driving, Study Says.” CNN Tech, CNN, 29 July 2016, money.cnn.com/2016/07/29/technology/uber-drunk-driving/index.html. Accessed 19 June 2017.
  • WQAD Digital Team. “Judge Orders DUI Defendants to Download Ride-hailing Apps.”WQUAD 8, 16 June 2017, wqad.com/2017/06/16/judge-orders-dui-defendants-to-download-ride-hailing-apps/. Accessed 19 June 2017.