Social Impact of Driving at Night for Lyft and Uber

Lyft , Rideshare , Uber Dec 01, 2015 No Comments

Some Lyft and Uber drivers like working at night because the high demand leads to surge pricing and higher pay.  But there’s also a huge social benefit to those late night rides that drivers don’t often consider.  

The reason for the high demand at night often has to do with drinking.  People are out to dinner or went for a drink with friends and need a safe way to get home after having too many drinks to drive themselves.

In the past, taxis were the best option.  But the traditional taxi system doesn’t necessarily incentivize drivers to work late into the night.  Yes, there may be a better chance for the driver to pick up a passenger during those late hours.  But that passenger’s fare would be the same at midnight as it would have been that afternoon.  Since there is less monetary incentive for taxi drivers to be out late, there was often a shortage of rides when intoxicated passengers needed them most.  And unfortunately, when it’s difficult to find a ride home, some people decide to drive themselves no matter how much they’ve had to drink.  

The creation of ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber have had a significant impact on decreasing the number of accidents due to drunk driving.

In January 2015, Uber partnered with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to produce a report entitled “More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices”.  The report produced some pretty staggering statistics to show the impact ridesharing has on cities where more late night driving options are available.

In California, accidents related to drunk driving fell 6.5% among drivers under the age of 30 in cities where Uber has launched UberX.  This accounts for around 60 fewer drunk driving crashes each month in California and an estimated 1,800 crashes avoided since 2012.  

The report also showed that the number DUI arrests has fallen in cities where Uber is available.  Since Uber has entered the Seattle market, DUI arrests have fallen in the city by 10%.  This finding was backed up by survey questions where 78% of Uber users said their friends are less likely to drive home after drinking since ridesharing services have become available and 93% would recommend Uber as a safer option of getting home to a friend that had been drinking.  

And if these findings weren’t enough to convince someone of the impact ridesharing services have had on decreasing the number of drunk driving related accidents, one should consider the examples Uber released to support these conclusions.  In Miami, peak Uber usage coincides with the hours when drunk driving incidents had historically been the highest.  In Pittsburg, peak hours line up almost exactly to the closing time of most bars across the city.  And on New Year’s Eve last year in Chicago, 75% of rides picked up from places ⅛ of a mile or closer to businesses that had a liquor license.

Despite the higher volume of rides and likelihood of surge pricing, some drivers refuse to drive at night for exactly the reason mentioned above — many people at night are intoxicated.  Drunk passengers can be tough, whether it’s difficult to coordinate a pickup, obnoxious behavior in the car, or even worse, they need to get out of the car unexpectedly to relieve themselves of a certain reaction to alcohol.  But not all intoxicated passengers are like this.  And if drivers are able to deal with those who are difficult, they will be providing a very important, social service.  

The numbers are clear — the more safe rides that are available through ridesharing services, the less likely intoxicated people will be driving themselves, leading to fewer accidents that will occur due to drunk driving.  

Also published on Medium.

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