Are People Using Uber as an Alternative to Drinking and Driving?


a chart showing a decrease in DUIs

Could ridesharing services be saving lives? 

As pressure from taxi unions and DMVs has mounted across the United States, popular ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have faced bans and setbacks in several cities. Pittsburgh is one of the most recent places to force ridesharing services to close up shop. Intrigued by the local government's claim that these ridesharing services are detrimental to the public, Nate Good, a computer scientist, investigated what kind of societal effect they really have.

Good examined data in Pittsburgh's sister city, Philadelphia, because Pittsburgh's data was not available. His quick and dirty number crunching compared the DUI rate from January 2004 to January 2013 to the DUI rate from April 2013 (the first time that all ridesharing services were in effect) to December 2013. He found that the DUI rate decreased by 11.1 percent in the ridesharing era. The drop for people under 30 was even more impressive: 18.5 percent. 

As Good notes, correlation does not mean causation and the study design was far from comprehensive. But it is highly probable that Uber and its brethren has saved more than a few lives. In May, Uber published a similar study that examined data in Seattle:

"We estimate that the entrance of Uber in Seattle caused the number of arrests for DUI to decrease by more than 10%. These results are robust and statistically significant. The diagram below illustrates the "Uber effect" relative to the baseline of DUIs."

These results here should be taken with an even bigger grain of salt. Uber obviously has a significant stake in the outcome so the potential for bias is high. Perhaps these looks at the data will encourage others to take a more systematic dive into intuitive assertion that people will choose a convenient, reasonably priced alternative to drinking and driving when it is available. 


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  1. Pittsburgh’s sister city, Philadelphia

    You’ve either never been Pittsburgh or Philly, or your hoping the ignorant will think better of Philly than it deserves.

    1. What’s the difference between Norway and Sweden?

      Sweden’s got better neighbors.

      1. Thank you from HnR’s #1 Norwegian. There was some talk about Viking Cruises in the other thread, don’t know if you saw it.

        1. Got it; left a note.

      2. Finland?

    2. Description of Penna:

      You got Pittsburgh over here. You got Philly over here. And then you got Arkanses in the middle.

  2. But if I were an Uber driver, I’d be a bit cautious about some blotto who might puke in the back seat.

    1. Then you rate them as a puking sot so other drivers will know to avoid them.

      1. I assume there is a puking windfall fee? When I do my annual get-together with my buddies, the hotel always profits handsomely from the has-mat fee.

        1. haz-mat. damn you Apple!!!

        2. Bathroom has mat? Then bathroom might not have hazmat on its hands.

          1. If you do unsavory things to a hotel room, there are add-on charges. You wouldn’t really have any idea that they exist until you’re on the receiving end of them.

            1. You have to pay extra to wash the blood off the sheets. I hate when that happens.

  3. I know we use Uber all the time when we go out now (and know we will be drinking), just because it’s more convenient than cabs.

    (on another note, I haven’t commented recently – have they changed the commenting system??… because I had to create a new ID)

    1. Same, but it’s also cheaper than cabs. And cleaner, less smelly drivers, more spacious rides. Fuck, there really isn’t anything cabs got going for them.

  4. So now they’re cutting into police and highway patrol revenues too? These monsters must be stopped!

  5. Nate Good

    Paul Best


    1. Robert Evenbetter

  6. Uber and its brethren seem like a nice bridge between our current situation and our future of widespread driverless cars. In the future, we shouldn’t have to take a cab (or an UberLiftEtc ride) home, since our car won’t be impaired and we’ll be a passenger. For people who don’t want full-time cars, every taxi-like service should feature driverless cars. One less thing to worry about.

  7. On topic: apparently the UberBOAT trial was a big success in Boston. It’s over for now but it’s coming back.

  8. the DUI rate decreased by 11.1 percent in the ridesharing era. The drop for people under 30 was even more impressive: 18.5 percent.



  9. The naifs may think that a reduction in DUI rates would be persuasive argument for Uber et al, but they would be wrong. DUI is a major business, and a reduction in the DUI market would have enormous economic impact on lawyers, jailers, alcohol abuse counselors, cops, and bailbondsmen. Uber et al already have one huge, politically connected group, taxi rentiers, lined up against them. The last thing Uber et al need is for the DUI industry to array behind the taxi rentiers.

    The local pols must love this, though. Nothing enriches campaign coffers like a public choice battle.

  10. I’m currently attending DUI classes for an offense I committed two years ago, and I can attest that my fellow convicts swear by Uber and say they use it all the time rather than take the chance on driving. If I ever have a desire to go out and drink, that’s what I’m going to do to. But as usual, the all-knowing government will try to quash something that actually helps people and saves live.

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