More Evidence Uber Reduces Drunk Driving Fatalities


Both Paul Best and I have written about early evidence matching intuition: that the presence of an easier way to summon a ride home at the end of a night of drinking could have positive effects in diminishing drunk driving.

A new study from Brad N. Greenwood and Sunil Wattal of Temple University's Fox School of Business, looking at California cities, has more evidence for that intuition's validity, and the idea that price sensitivity is at play in people's decisions to not drunk-drive:

Results indicate four notable findings. First, while the entry of Uber X strongly and negatively affects the number of motor vehicle homicides which occur, limited evidence exists to support previous claims that this occurs with the [more expensive] Uber Black car service as well….Second, results indicate that the time for such effects to manifest is non-trivial (upwards of 9 – 15 months). Third, results suggest no effect of Uber when surge pricing is likely in effect, thereby underscoring the importance of cost considerations. Fourth, results indicate no negative effect of Uber entry on the rate of non-alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities (suggesting that the potential spike in automobiles on the road is not negatively affecting other drivers).

And the numbers:

results indicate that the entrance of Uber X results in a 3.6% – 5.6% decrease in the rate of motor vehicle homicides per quarter in the state of California. With more than 1000 deaths occurring in California due to alcohol related car crashes every year, this represents a substantial opportunity to improve public welfare and save lives.

The authors use death data, not all accident data, mostly because "there is a significant delay in the aggregation of data which does not involve significant injury. At the time of data collection, non-injury collision data were available only through October 2013 (thereby dramatically limiting the variability in the entry of Uber services and the duration of treatment)."

Deaths are also, of course, a more gripping measure than mere accidents or stops related to drunk driving.

Regulators and entrenched transpo interests can be expected to continue to try to stop or stymie these life-saving services. Feel free to accuse them of having blood on their hands as they do.