In a recent article, the Austin American Statesman reported that services like Uber and Lyft may not be lowering DWI arrest rates. The article compared DWI arrest rates and DWI related crash rates between 2014, before Uber and Lyft were operating in Austin, and the 2015 stats after the services were accepting business.
The numbers of people arrested for DWI in Austin, Texas during the two time periods were virtually the same. In terms of just the raw numbers of arrests made by police for drunk driving, there was no significant decrease during the time drivers had ride sharing services available to them. Similarly, there was only a 12% change in crash rates between the two periods.
The article did not provide any data from Uber or Lyft on the numbers of rides actually purchased in Austin during the relevant time frame.
Uber and Lyft stopped operating in Austin due to an ordinance recently enacted requiring drivers for paid services to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. The ordinance also requires ride-for-hire vehicles to display particular markings, and the companies themselves must also report certain information. The companies opted to stop operating in Austin rather than comply with the requirements of the ordinance.
Houston, Texas also requires fingerprint background checks for paid drivers. This includes drivers who work for Uber. Uber nonetheless continues to operate in Houston. In an article on Click2Houston from September of last year, Uber claimed to have provided 3.5 million rides in Houston since the company started operating there in 2014. The number of people charged with DWI in Houston for 2013 was 6,205. In 2014, there were a reported 5,182 people arrested for DWI. Uber argues that the ride sharing service is at least partially responsible for the decline in arrests.
There are a number of reasons why the number of drivers arrested for DWI may have decreased in Houston over the past few years. Prosecutors and police will try to take the credit for the reduction in numbers. Increasingly aggressive law enforcement informational campaigns, officers assigned to DWI specific task forces, and no refusal blood draws every day of the week could also explain some or all of the changes in rates. There is also no way to discount random changes in numbers of arrests.
Another factor that may have led to the decline in DWI charges is recent rehabilitation initiatives in Harris County, Texas. Many DWI arrests in our area are repeat offenders. In past cases, the success of rehabilitative programs, treatment and counseling has also led to a decline in DWI arrests. The best DWI defense is to never get a DWI to begin with. In cases where defense lawyers are able to get their clients help instead of mere punishment, these people are typically less likely to be arrested for DWI again. Since about 2008, Houston has had a program available for first time DWI offenders that allow for remedial measures and dismissal of the DWI charge.
Has Uber saved lives and prevented DWI arrests? If you have ever used Uber in Houston after drinking to make sure you got home safely, let us know in the comments or visit our site!