With the 4th of July holiday upon us, it’s an important reminder that if you plan on celebrating where there’s alcohol served, you should find a designated driver. While the summer holidays are occasions full of outdoor parties, barbecues and fun on the water, it’s also related to the unintended consequences of drunk driving. In fact, the days surrounding Independence Day are some of the deadliest of the year due to drunk driving. 

Rideshare companies are hoping their services can cut down on the number of drunk drivers by providing safe, affordable rides. Uber, the first ridesharing company, has even partnered with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving to help save lives by encouraging safe, sober ride options. 

Has ridesharing actually helped decrease the number of drunk driving fatalities?

What Is The Legal Limit?

Impaired driving means you’re operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The level of your impairment can vary based on your size and weight, but you are considered legally too impaired to drive if your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is .08 or higher – an average of three back-to-back alcoholic beverages. At that point, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI, as being under the influence of alcohol increases your risk of causing a car crash.

Drunk Driving Stats Before & After Ridesharing

The ridesharing company Uber didn’t launch until 2012 in San Francisco. After which, it spread to ten major U.S. cities and has since continued its descent to most of the United States and across the world.

Uber and Lyft didn’t have much impact on drunk driving fatalities in 2012 due it being the starting point of its growth. At that time, about 45,337 drivers were involved in a fatal car crash, of which, it is estimated that 9,678 of the drivers had a BAC over .08 percent. Of those impaired drivers, the age group with the highest percentage was 21-24, at a staggering 32 percent.

Now that ride sharing has been wide-spread for well over a few years now, it’s safe to re-examine the data to see if there’s any correlation between the two, by taking a look at where drunk driving fatalities currently stand. As of 2017, 52,274 drivers were involved in a fatal car crash, of which, 10,344 were considered legally impaired. Of impaired drivers, the 21-24-year-old age group was responsible for 27 percent. 

Analyzing The Numbers

At first glance, you might think the number of drivers involved in fatal car accidents increased. But with a closer look, you’ll see since the inception of Uber and Lyft, it’s actually slightly decreased, as more drivers are on the road.

In 2012, the amount of impaired drivers who were involved in fatal car crashes accounted for 21 percent of total drivers involved in fatal car crashes. In 2017, however, the number of impaired drivers involved in fatal car crashes amounted to 20 percent of total drivers involved in fatal car crashes. That’s a one percent decrease since just before the launch of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. But are they directly related?

The Correlation Between the Two in Major Cities

Upon seeing the decrease in impaired drivers in fatal car crashes since 2012, it only slightly gives nod that Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies are the reason. In order to confirm this, multiple studies have been conducted in major cities where ridesharing companies are heavily present.

In one study, it was found that four boroughs of New York City (excluding Staten Island) have experienced a 25 to 35 percent decrease in alcohol-related car accidents since the inception of Uber, as compared to other locations where the company doesn’t operate.

While that might seem like it unearths a strong correlation between the two, another report by the American Journal of Epidemiology examines the major cities and concluded there really wasn’t any correlation that could be uncovered regarding ride-hailing companies and the number of fatal car accidents.

The Conclusion

While it certainly makes sense that easy, affordable ridesharing options should help decrease drunk driving in general, given the current statistics, it’s hard to nail down a direct correlation between the two.

It is, however, safe to forecast that as the ridesharing market grows and expands to different areas, more companies partner with drunk driving organizations, we will begin to see a decrease in drunk driving fatalities.

  • FYI: Cities across the U.S. are partnering with Lyft to provide free rides on the 4th of July this year. From 7p.m on July 4th to 2 a.m. on July 5th, anyone who needs a sober ride can log onto soberide.com for a code to enter into the Lyft app.
  • Another option is to download the SaferRide mobile app so you can share your location with either a taxi or ridesharing service.