New Research shows Uber’s role in reducing drunk driving

By Kristin Smith, Head of Global Road Safety Policy

Every day 28 people lose their lives to drunk drivers in the US; that’s one person every 52 minutes. The impact impaired driving has on our society is emotionally damaging, costly, and oftentimes life altering. As a leader in ridesharing, we are committed to doing our part to be a reliable ride within reach and help put an end to impaired driving.

Today, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published an independent* study that proves we have made significant progress towards achieving this goal. The study, “Association of Rideshare Use With Alcohol-Associated Motor Vehicle Crash Trauma” showed that Uber’s presence in a city reduced the rate of drinking and driving crashes.

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) conducted a retrospective study that analyzed DUI arrests and serious motor vehicle traumas in Houston between 2007 and 2019. They found substantial decreases in both DUI arrests and motor vehicle injuries after Uber entered the market in 2014. The research shows:

  • After Uber came to Houston, motor vehicle collision traumas decreased by 23.8% on Friday and Saturday nights for all ages, and 38.9% for individuals under 30 years old.
  • DUI arrests decreased across the board, with the greatest reduction on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
  • Impaired driving arrests declined overall in Houston’s city center where there was higher Uber utilization compared to the suburbs.

The research relies on highly granular hourly data for Uber rideshare utilization and vehicular trauma incidents, allowing researchers to control for geography, population growth, driving patterns and rates of alcohol consumption.

While we are encouraged with the findings of this research, we are not surprised. Our own rider polling revealed that at least 80% of riders with Uber say Uber has helped them personally avoid drinking and driving. Additionally, MADD conducted a survey in 2015 and found that 78% of respondents agree that their friends are less likely to drive drunk if rideshare is available, and 93% of respondents recommend ridesharing to friends instead of driving after drinking.

Since 2015, Uber has teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on national campaigns to empower people to make the right choice and utilize all modes of transportation instead of getting behind the wheel. Road safety advocates are especially concerned about increases in drunk driving as cities open up after Covid.

“This study confirms what MADD has believed for years — that Uber offers a convenient transportation option that helps reduce the risk of drunk driving crashes, especially among younger drivers,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “The more options that are available, the easier it is to make sure that if you drink, don’t drive.”

*Uber provided the researchers with hourly trip data, but had no role in the research, funding, or findings of this study.

** Lyft did not enter the Houston market until 2017.

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