February 14, 2016

Does Uber Cause a Decrease in DUI Arrests?

uber decrease dui arrests

*actor portrayal

Uber is moving into cities all over the world. Las Vegas is just one of the company’s recent new homes. By now, most people are familiar with Uber, but there may be one interesting benefit of the service that is less well known: the potential to decrease drivers charged with DUI.

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Uber Impacts DUI

Essentially, the presence of Uber lets drunk customers order a driver who is safe and sober instead of driving themselves home.

That takes drunk drivers off the road and reduces the odds of alcohol causing a crash.

Drinking is Part of Vegas Culture

Whiskey and Car KeysLas Vegas is a particularly important city for testing out this idea. First of all, it is obviously a party city with a significant amount of drinking.

That means that if Uber really can reduce the number of DUIs, then this is one of the best places to try it out, because it could save a lot of lives.

Uber Serves Vegas Residents Not Just Tourists

In addition, the structure of Las Vegas means that Uber is already a better driving solution than taxis. Taxis have an incentive to stay very close to the Strip where they can feel confident of picking up a fare.

On the other hand, Uber drivers tend to venture across more neighborhoods and provide better transportation access. Uber’s technological edge means it is the best way to pick up a car in places where taxis are reluctant to travel.

That is clear from big cities like New York, where taxis rarely venture outside the dense core of Manhattan. But Uber’s range all over the city, giving rides to people who would be unable to use taxis.

Impact on DUIs

DUI CheckpointReturning to the subject of DUIs, Uber has not yet tested the Las Vegas area for whether or not the app’s presence has affected the rate of DUI convictions or arrests.

However, the company did do a study in the Seattle area. A team of economic researchers looked at the period when Uber entered the Seattle market.

They found that right around the date when Uber became operational, the number of DUI arrests made in Seattle dropped by about ten percent. The researchers tried several tests on that result. For example, they compared the drop to the same time period for DUI arrests in San Francisco to see if there was some national or regional trend that might have reduced DUIs.

Safer Transportation

They also controlled for the legalization of marijuana. In the end, though, the result survived all of the tests: Uber’s entry into the Seattle market decreased the number of DUI arrests by 10 percent.

That might not seem like a large number, but consider the number of drunk drivers off the road that 10 percent represents. It is true that not all drunk drivers get into accidents, but any reduction means greater safety.

This evidence is fairly strong, and it should be enough to convince anyone that Uber will reduce DUIs when it enters a city. In fact, it is possible to make the argument that the effect will actually be stronger in Las Vegas because of the city’s higher level of alcohol intake.

Even if Uber is still taking 10 percent of drunk drivers off the road, that could translate into a larger number of people. More people coming off the road means more saved lives.

Uber vs Taxi

Uber itself is controversial because it competes directly with the taxi industry. However, it should be clear from this analysis that Uber contributes directly to the safety of the public by reducing the number of people driving drunk.

In a city like Las Vegas, when the residents know that they can just call an Uber instead of driving, they are safer and so are the people around them. DUIs are a perennial problem, particularly in areas like Las Vegas where the bars might be located far from where the patrons live.