Transportation
5:06 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

As Ridesharing Debate Continues, Some Look Into Whether Services Reduce DUIs

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission continues to try stopping ridesharing services Uber and Lyft from operating in the Pittsburgh area, often citing that the drivers are not regulated by the state, which is a safety concern.

This prompted one Pittsburgh man to look into a major safety issue – driving under the influence.

“Under that safety argument I decided to look into DUIs, arguably one of biggest dangers on the road, this could have been having a profound change in that area,” said Nate Good.

Good is not a researcher — he’s a user of Uber and Lyft and his day job is chief technology officer for ShowClix.

Good tried to look at DUI information for the Pittsburgh area, but it was not yet available, so he looked to Philadelphia where ridesharing has been in place longer there than in Pittsburgh.

“What we found is that starting around the time that Uber Black, the high-end service that Uber has, launched in the Philly area there was a decline in DUIs,” said Good. “That decline continued as other ridesharing services joined in the Philadelphia market.”

Good further broke it down into age groups, looking at over 30 and under 30, and found that there was a larger drop in DUIs in the under-30 demographic.

But Good cautions that this was not a comprehensive, scientific study.

“As much as we’d like to jump to conclusions, and this data looks really good, keep in mind that correlation is not causation, and there certainly could be more work done to look into this, but I think it’s a really great start and hopefully continues to open up this dialogue,” Good said.

This issue is one Uber has looked at in other areas, such as Seattle.

“We tested this theory in Seattle and actually had quite a bit more data than is available here in Pittsburgh, and we were able to find a causal relationship between our entry and significant decrease in DUI rates,” said Matt Gore, general manager of Uber Pittsburgh.

Gore said it may be hard to prove definitively, but said he believes rideshare services do reduce DUIs.

“Our peak demand is at the same time that bars are closing in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We know that Pittsburgh has a huge number of bars per capita, we know that Pennsylvania has a huge number of DUIs per capita, so if you take away the rides that are occurring at the time that the bars are closing, in the place that people are drinking, you’re taking away an alternative to drunk driving.”

The Public Utility Commission has issued a cease-and-desist order to Lyft and Uber in Pittsburgh, though they continue to operate. Many state and local elected officials support having the ride sharing services here as an option in addition to public transit and taxis. Legislation to legalize ridesharing is pending in Harrisburg.