Uber is a ridesharing company, rising in popularity because it enables people to use their smart phones to conveniently request and get rides from their current location. Because it makes it easy for people to get a ride, people under the influence of alcohol who might otherwise drive drunk have an easy alternative, a way to get home that will be much safer both for themselves and others.
While a study has come out suggesting that ridesharing is having a positive impact on reducing drunk driving, the truth may be more complicated.
Is Uber preventing DUI?
According to an Uber spokesperson, quoted by LA Weekly one frequent cause of drinking and driving is the feeling of a lack of a safe, reliable transportation alternative....To combat drunk driving we must combat the unavailability and unreliability of transportation options for residents and visitors.
Thanks to the creative application of new mobile technologies, we can now start to tackle this problem by giving people more, safer ways to get home."
One organization that has been supportive of Uber's efforts is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, (MADD) which calls the app a "powerful tool in the fight to reduce the number of drunk-driving crashes." MADD President Colleen-Sheehey Church stated that "with so many reliable and accessible options at people's fingertips, there are no more excuses," for this incredibly risky behavior.
Their hopefulness may be partially backed up by a January 2015 report, commissioned through this MADD and Uber partnership. Called "More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices" it showed that drunk driving crashes in the state of California have decreased by 60 per month for drivers younger than 30.
Uber suggested that their company was one of the central reasons behind the decline. A survey portion of the study supported this, showing that 78 percent said that friends are less likely to drive home after drinking since ridesharing services became available, and 93 percent said they would recommend ridesharing as a safer way home to a friend who had been drinking.
Other possible reasons
A February 2015 report by Ryann Grouchowski Jones writing for ProPublica revealed the situation may be more complicated than the Uber funded study would suggest. Drunk driving crashes are down in all areas, not just in cities that make up Uber's market. This means there could be other reasons behind this decline.
Lt. Michelle Loomis of the Los Angeles Police Department told the online journal LAist that a lot of things could be behind the decline, including "more education" about DUIs and a change in "the way the public has viewed DUI driving." People's awareness of the dangers of drunk driving has risen, making people less likely to get on the road when they would be a risk.
Police officers are also engaging in more training and efforts to spot drunk drivers and get them off the road, discouraging their behavior with strict punitive measures. City planning can also play an important role, by increasing the reach and availability of public transit, thus giving large groups of people ways to get home safely.
What to know
The important thing to realize is that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, just because two things happen at the same time, it is not proof that one caused the other. There can be any number of factors behind what caused the recent positive trend away from drunk driving.
The fight to discourage people from driving under the influence will require a multi-pronged approach. Giving people another alternative to driving themselves may not solve the problem completely, but it may be a helpful tool in this important, life-saving fight.