Drunk Driving Accident Rates Lowered by Ride-Sharing Services : Study

Areas which used services like Uber and Lyft saw decreases in drunk driving accident rates, researchers say

New research indicates access to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft has helped lower the auto accident rates associated with drunk driving, highlighting the impact the new technology companies have had on a decades-old public health initiative.

Despite decades of awareness campaigns highlighting the risks associated with drunk driving, more than 103,000 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-related crashes, which were all preventable.

Researchers from Columbia University have conducted a review of 20 studies that examined ride-sharing services, indicating that 85% show positive evidence of reducing drunk driving accidents and decreased levels of alcohol-impaired driving overall.

Among 18 U.S. counties that implemented subsidized ride-sharing interventions for more than 156 weeks, rates of drunk driving decreased overall, although the impact was more substantial in some areas.

For example, in one city in New Jersey, ride-sharing reduced alcohol-related injuries by 18%. Smaller programs in other areas that operated for shorter periods of time had weaker results or saw no decrease in injuries. However, each time an Uber or Lyft is used after drinking, it reduces the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on U.S. roadways.

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Data indicates heavy drinking can lead to drunk driving, alcohol-related crashes as well as an increase in assaults. One way to prevent some of these problems is by changing the environments in which people drink. Ride-sharing can help change the transportation environment, researchers said, noting that when the changes affect entire populations, even small effects can have large impacts.

People often consider speed, ease, cost and comfort when choosing transportation. Ride-sharing is often seen as a more reliable, economic and preferable method compared to using taxis and public transit, like the subway and buses.

However, ride-sharing also has downsides. In places ride-sharing is available, there is a significant increase in alcohol consumption, assaults, pedestrian crashes, traffic congestion and air pollution.

Another study published by the same team from Columbia pointed out that, while ride-sharing positively impacts drunk driving and drunk driving crashes, the effect is different across various geographical areas.

The findings of the study could help inform government programs as new methods are considered to reduce drunk driving, the researchers said.

The findings were presented Sunday, June 27, at the meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Orlando, Florida. Research presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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