A new study from Angela Dills and Sean Mulholland tries to expand on previous attempts to analyze the effect of ride‐sharing beyond concerns about driver trustworthiness. They analyze the impact of Uber’s entry into 150 cities and counties over a three‐year period, finding that after accounting for other previously ignored effects, personal safety actually increases markedly. Uber entering a jurisdiction lowers its rate of DUI arrests and traffic fatalities, and lowers arrest rates for assault and disorderly conduct (although they do find an increase in the rate of vehicle theft).
This is not just some one‐off effect that dissipates quickly, either: the authors find evidence that some of these effects grow larger the longer Uber operates. This means local jurisdictions that regulate ride‐sharing companies into leaving could actually cost lives and make people less safe.
Driving Uber Away May Mean More Death
One of the few metrics previous studies analyzed beyond the passenger safety concerns was Uber’s impact on DUI arrests. The authors here further that location‐specific research and find a similar effect. They find Uber’s entry into a city or county leads to a considerable reduction in arrest rate for DUIs—between 15 and 62 percent, depending on the specification.
But ride‐sharing companies don’t just affect drunk driving rates, and people looking for a ride home from bars are not the only customers. The authors also look at the effects of Uber’s entry on alcohol‐related fatal crashes, nighttime fatal crashes, and the number of vehicular fatalities per 100,000 residents. They find it is associated with declines in fatal accident rates and fatal night‐time crashes. They also present evidence this effect continues after the initial entry, as “for each additional year of operation, Uber’s continued presence is associated with a 16.6 percent decline in vehicular fatalities.” For context, in 2014 there were 32,675 traffic fatalities.
These reductions could in part be because these ride‐sharing services are most popular among younger people, as 28 percent of 18- to 29‐year‐olds have used a ride‐sharing company. This is also the group most likely to be involved in car accidents, so the availability of other options might reduce the number of less‐experienced, less‐safe drivers on the road. While previous studies have found reductions in drunk driving thanks to ride‐sharing, this new analysis finds significant other gains, including signficiant reductions in overall traffic deaths. Regulations that would drive away these companies risk losing these important gains.