Ridesharing Saves Both Cash and Lives
A recent study conducted by experts at Temple University claims ridesharing (also called ridesourcing) is saving lives. The increased use of private transportation network companies, Uber X in particular, has resulted in a marked decrease in driving homicides where alcohol was a determining factor. Researchers Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal have calculated, based on data compiled in California from 2009 to 2014, that a nation-wide implementation of such services would save 500 of the 13,000 lives lost each year in DUI incidents.
Uber is one of many private ridesharing companies which claim to be part of the next generation of for-hire transportation, taxi-cabs for a world where the convenience of smartphones can replace the complications of corporate fleets. Their business model utilizes peer-to-peer ridesharing, where people who need a ride can get connected with drivers available to offer them a lift to their destination. Others, like Postmates, use the model to provide low-cost, on-demand delivery options to users. All that is needed to drive for these companies is a valid driver’s license, meet the vehicle requirements, and pass a satisfactory criminal background check. Both the motorist and passenger receive a measure of payment protection, as all payments are handled through the company’s ride-hailing app. The success of this business model has seen it spread internationally, and numerous companies have launched with similar operations (a trend affectionately termed “Uberification”).
This is not the only study to indicate that ridesharing reduces the frequency of DUIs, but it is the first to reach the conclusion through independent data. Uber itself has undertaken marketing strategies to demonstrate the importance of their service to public safety, including the use of a breathalyzer in one of its Toronto-based kiosks with the promise “you drink, we drive”. Those above the legal blood alcohol concentration in the promotional video were given a free ride.
The taxi industry is decidedly less touted by the Temple study. It cites several cases where cities which restrict Uber’s operations see a “manufacture[d] excess demand” on taxi services, prompting more people to drive under the influence. The researchers include encouragement for establishments which serve alcohol to establish connections with ridesharing companies in addition to their relationships with taxi companies. They cite the responsibility for vendors to oversee their patrons and the culpability they face in the event of alcohol-related auto accidents as compelling reasons for engaging such services.
A further recommendation made by the study is for cities to ease restrictions on the operation of ridesharing companies, arguing that there is no measurable increase in non-alcohol-related auto incidents in areas where such companies operate and competition needs to be promoted in the transportation industry.
Ridesharing services are now available in over 300 cities across the world, including London, Paris, Warsaw, Toronto, Sydney, Tijuana, Seoul, Nairobi, Lagos, and Johannesburg.