Reason Roundup

Uber Has Reduced Drunk Driving Deaths by 6 Percent, Study Finds

Plus: Americans evenly split on immigration, bill moves to stop EPA raids of auto shops, and more...

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Anti-ride-sharing politics puts people at risk. Initially heralded as an environmentally friendly boon for consumer safety, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have for years been demonized by politicians and city governments. These state actors—enthralled to taxi unions, tempted by the revenue-raising possibility of imposing fees on ride-sharing companies, and intent on forcing these companies into an old-fashioned business model in which drivers must work standard hours and receive full benefits packages—have been busy making a promising business model more cumbersome and less attractive for customers, drivers, and ride-sharing companies alike.

Their antics could come with serious costs, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). In "Uber and Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities," researchers Michael L. Anderson and Lucas W. Davis report that their analysis of Uber data suggests ride-sharing options have made a significant dent in drunk-driving deaths, as well as deaths resulting from traffic accidents overall.

The NBER research finds ride-sharing services cut alcohol-related traffic deaths in the U.S. by 6.1 percent and total U.S. traffic deaths by 4 percent.

"We find a robust negative impact of ridesharing on traffic fatalities," write the researchers. "Based on conventional estimates of the value of statistical life the annual life-saving benefits range from $2.3 to $5.4 billion."

While the researchers only analyzed Uber data, there's reason to suspect other services—like Lyft—have a similar effect. ("Our data represent a good proxy for overall ridesharing activity during our sample period," the paper states.)

You can read the whole paper here.

Aside from being a drop of good news, it's also something to keep in mind as more and more areas move to enact policies (like California's A.B. 5, or the even more extreme plans which the Biden administration and House Democrats want to institute at the national level) that could make it harder for ride-sharing companies to operate, less attractive for people to work for them, and more expensive for their customers. The impact likely isn't just lost revenue for Uber and Lyft, and more people choosing other modes of transport, but a ratcheting back up of drunk driving, automobile accidents, and road deaths.


FREE MINDS

U.S. opinions on immigration are still seriously divided. The latest Gallup immigration poll finds 33 percent say we should allow more immigration, 31 percent say we should allow less, and 35 percent think our current level is good. "These preferences are similar to last year's readings but reflect greater support for increased immigration since the early 2000s, reaching a high of 34% in 2020," notes Gallup. "At the same time, there has been a decline in recent years in the percentage of Americans who want immigration decreased, with last year's 28% the lowest in the trend."


FREE MARKETS

Why are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agents raiding auto repair shops? "Following the EPA's December National Compliance Initiative, which focuses on manufacture, sale, and installation of emissions 'defeat devices,' the agency targeted the high-performance auto industry, sometimes deploying armed agents to slap heavy fines on violators," reports Yahoo News, detailing one such raid at Lund Racing in Pennsylvania.

Lund's shop is hardly the only dealer targeted by the EPA. Last month, Bradenton, Florida's JH Diesel and Fort Lupton, Colorado's PFI Speed were hit with heavy fines by the EPA.

Now, a bill is moving through Congress to curtail these kinds of EPA raids. The RPM Act, its sponsors say, aims to protect the right to convert street vehicles into dedicated race cars. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, would clarify that it is legal to make emissions-related changes to a street vehicle in order to convert it into a race car that is used exclusively in competition. The proposal would also confirm that it is legal to produce, market, and install racing equipment.

"I think it's insane that over 40 executive branch agencies have police forces. The EPA shouldn't be able to raid anything or anybody," Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, and co-sponsor of the RPM Act, told the Washington Examiner.


QUICK HITS

• Forever war never ends, it just gets reclassified…

• In Florida, the Pasco Sheriff's Office "creates lists of people it considers likely to break the law based on criminal histories, social networks and other unspecified intelligence" and "sends deputies to their homes repeatedly, often without a search warrant or probable cause for an arrest," according to the Tampa Bay Times. Four people are now suing over the program in federal court.

• "Can entire societies become more or less depressed over time?" ask researchers in a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D–Mass.) war on profitable and popular tech companies continues.

ShotSpotter is an artificial intelligence-based "surveillance system that uses hidden microphone sensors to detect the sound and location of gunshots," and it's being used by cops to fabricate evidence, reports Vice.

• California announces new vaccination rules for state employees:

• "Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements," notes Axios.

• A new court decision regarding a web designer and same-sex weddings "appears to be inconsistent with the Eighth Circuit's decision in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, which upheld videographers' right not to create videos of same-sex weddings," points out Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy. "I expect this circuit split will make this a good candidate for Supreme Court review—unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop, this case indubitably involves the creation of speech, and not just of a wedding cake, so it squarely tees up the compelled-creation-of-speech issue."

• Biden's temporary child tax credit is divisive, with 35 percent of voters opposed to it and 35 percent saying it should become permanent.

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