Does Uber Prevent DUIs, or Are We Being Taken for a Ride?

uber does not protect from DUI-related fatalities.Beware of anyone claiming to be a savior, especially when they make money from it. This principle has applied in many unfortunate situations throughout history, and today it applies in a new, unexpected place: ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Central to the pitch that ride-sharing should be as unregulated and underpaid as possible is the idea that easy access to ride-sharing prevents deaths from driving under the influence. So appealing has the idea of reducing fatal crashes through “transportation network companies” been that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recently declared support for California Proposition 22, which would curtail the state’s ability to apply worker protection laws to these companies’ drivers.

There’s only one problem: a preponderance of peer-reviewed academic research shows this idea isn’t true.

Alcohol Justice confronted this myth in the context of extended last call times in 2017. At the time, the authors of the bill argued that there would be no impact on DUI rates because of the easy access to Uber and Lyft. The subsection of our report challenging this myth is linked below, but since that was published a number of additional compelling analyses have emphatically shown a) that alcohol-related traffic deaths do not go down when Uber or Lyft are introduced to an area, and b) that binge drinking and other harmful use patterns actually increase along with the introduction of ride-sharing.

Reports debunking the Uber and Lyft as DUI death prevention methods include:

The effect on binge drinking has been noticed in at least two other pre-publication papers. This finding is more ambiguous than the effect on dangerous driving; among other things, alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, has been increasing nationwide over the past two decades. But it is hard to ignore the possibility that an endorsement of ride-sharing from an organization like MADD, easily the most high-profile organization working to combat alcohol harm, makes people think that if they can get home “safely” then there are no other consequences to overconsumption.

As these ride-sharing companies grow in financial—not to mention political—clout, it is important that community advocates confront their fables. The myth that Uber prevents fatal DUI should be buried alongside the myth that “light cigarettes prevent cancer” and “a high-sugar diet is fine if you avoid cholesterol”. The only way to prevent deaths from alcohol is to confront and disempower those who profit from alcohol. And if Uber and Lyft insist on spreading this falsehood, then they should be consider alcohol profiteers as well.

READ MORE about how we cannot rely on Uber and Lyft, from the Alcohol Justice’s 2017 “Late Night Threat” report

READ MORE about the increase of binge drinking in the United States