No Disrupting Drunk Driving? New Study Says Uber Has Had No Effect.

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 06, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It sounds pretty logical, right? With so many people using ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, fewer folks would be driving drunk. Only that doesn't seem to be the case. A new study shows that Uber's arrival has had no impact on drunk driving fatalities, undercutting the app's claims to the contrary.

So why has the uber-popular ride-sharing app failed to make a dent in drunk driving?

The Numbers

Uber has championed its role as an alternative to drunk driving and its impact on DUIs. From its website: "There's a strong correlation between Uber's presence in cities and a reduction in drunk driving." And a prior study claimed "ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft lower the rate of fatal accidents, DUI arrests, disorderly conduct and assaults."

The more recent analysis, conducted by researchers at Oxford University and the University of Southern California, expanded the time frame of the study, looking at county by county traffic fatalities from 2005 to 2014. The study also focused on the 100 most populated metropolitan areas, and distinguished between cities where Uber operates where it does not. The study determined there was no association between Uber's presence and a reduction in drunk driving-related, weekend- and holiday-specific crashes.

The Theory

So why so little impact? The study's authors point out that even though ride-sharing is a popular option among commuters, its reach remains limited. Uber has around 450,000 drivers, compared to 210 million total licensed drivers in the United States, 4.2 million of whom drive impaired. And those who've been drinking might not be altering their behavior that much.

Riders hailing Uber might have been the same people hailing cabs before the ride-sharing apps appearance. And those that were willing to drive drunk instead of getting a cab might be just as willing to risk a DUI as they were before. So while Uber may have disrupted the traditional taxi industry, it hasn't made a dent in drunk driving.

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