Since the popular ridesharing company was founded in 2009, Uber has promoted itself as an ideal solution to drunk driving in cities. In one city in Russia, Uber is even handing out business cards that let bar patrons self-administer blood alcohol tests. On paper, offering an affordable, convenient ridesharing service really does seem like an ideal way to keep people from driving drunk. In practice, however, Uber might not be having much of an impact on drunk driving rates after all.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that between 2009 and 2014, Uber had little to no measurable impact on drunk driving fatality rates in the cities in which it operates. The researchers began by examining drunk driving fatality trends in the 100 most populated areas in the United States, and then isolated the cities with an Uber presence for further analysis.
The study’s authors attributed their findings in large part to raw numbers. While there might be hundreds of thousands of Uber drivers on the road in any given month, there are millions of drunk drivers on the road at the same time. Likewise, there simply aren’t enough Uber drivers to make a statistical dent in drunk driving fatality rates.
The researchers noted that they’d like to revisit the study in the future when Uber and other ridesharing services are even more prevalent on America’s roads. As these companies begin to employ self-driving vehicles, they may begin to have a more significant impact on traffic fatality rates as well. For now, however, it appears that Uber may have inflated its claims about the influence its service has had on drunk driving.