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Uber Hasn't Had Any Impact on Drunk-Driving Deaths

More hired drivers should mean fewer drunk drivers. But a new study proves conventional wisdom wrong.
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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

When Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin earlier this summer after voters passed a ballot measure regulating their drivers, many of the services’ supporters argued that their exit would put more drunk drivers on the road. After the ride-sharing services left, Austin recorded 359 arrests for DWI in May 2016, an uptick from 334 arrests for the same period one year prior.

Austin is one of a few major metro areas where Uber and Lyft opened up shop only to quickly close down operations less than two years later. With such small figures and over such a short time, it’s hard to say whether a 7.5-percent increase in arrests represents a spike in drunk driving, a surge in police vigilance, a statistical blip, or something else. Still, given the popularity of these services (especially Uber), it should be possible to show where ride-hailing has cut down on drunk-driving fatalities—somewhere, if not in Austin.