At a time when Uber is embroiled in all sorts of controversies including drivers in China being arrested for failing to have proper insurance, government officials raiding Uber offices in major cities around the world and constant fights with regulators everywhere over appropriate tax levels, the ride hailing app finally received some good press.
A recent study published by Temple University’s Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal indicates that inexpensive “taxi-like options” make it simpler for people who have had too much to drink to make the good and safe decision to hail an Uber rather than get behind the wheel themselves. The results: a reduction in DUI deaths.
Uber’s introduction of UberX, a low cost ride hailing service, reduces drunk driving deaths in cities where it is offered. The researchers concluded in their study that, “Economically, results indicate that the entrance of UberX results in a 3.6%-5.6% decrease in the rate of motor vehicle homicides per quarter in the state of California. With more than 13 [thousand] deaths occurring nationally each year due to alcohol related car crashes at a cost of $37 billion, results indicate that a complete implementation of UberX would create a public welfare net of over $1.3 billion to American taxpayers and save roughly 500 lives annually.”
These promising statistics make it a little harder for local government officials to aggressively go after Uber for failing to abide by regulations imposed upon traditional taxi companies and for failure to pay the same taxes. As Uber battles stiff competition in China and taxi drivers across the globe, it apparently also is battling against dangerous drunk drivers.
The recent study, funded by the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”), is more conclusive than previous studies because it was an independent study that relied on sophisticated statistical analysis. The state of California was important to the study because the state has seen UberX since its rollout in 2012. That means researchers could study exactly what happened when Uber hired enough drivers in a particular city so that it changed consumer behavior. Researchers examined approximately 12,500 motor vehicle collisions that occurred from 2009 to 2014 across 540 townships in California.
They compared DUI fatality rates before and after the introduction of UberX. The study concluded that potential drunk drivers look to inexpensive price and availability of cars for hire when deciding whether or not to drive their own cars. Because UberX makes it cheaper and easier to hire a car, offering a safe alternative to drunk driving, a small but significant percentage of people will choose UberX.
A study of last New Year’s Eve in San Francisco revealed that there were so many Uber cars out there that users did not have to pay increased “surge pricing,” which in the past meant that users could pay upwards of $100 for a short ride home. With so many cheap alternatives, there was simply no excuse for intoxicated drivers to get behind the wheel.