Is Ridesharing Contributing to Increase in Traffic Deaths?
Ridesharing has become hugely popular over the last eight years since Uber first launched in San Francisco. The rise of companies like Uber and Lyft has had a profound effect on the transportation industry. Exact numbers of ridesharing users are hard to pin down, but a study by Second Measure and Earnest Research found that somewhere between 24 and 43 percent of the U.S. population has used a ridesharing service in 2018.
Ridesharing services boast a wide range of benefits, such as keeping intoxicated drivers off the road, providing affordable transportation for those without vehicles, and providing flexible job opportunities for drivers. However, new research is showing a correlation between ridesharing services and an increase in traffic deaths.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and Rice University examined data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on accident rates. They specifically looked at accident rates before and after Uber or Lyft launched in U.S. cities. The study found that in many cities, accident rates shot up after a ridesharing service was launched.
Uber launched in San Francisco in 2010. That year, there were 32,885 fatal car accidents in the U.S.—the lowest number since 1949. However, fatal accidents have increased 2-4% each year since then.
What is Causing the Increase in Accidents?
What is behind the correlation? It looks like there could be a few factors. One is known as the “quantity effect” of the ridesharing economy. That is, simply, that more cars are on the road, due to the increase in ridesharing drivers. More cars on the road means more accidents. More vehicles are on the road not only while drivers are transporting their riders, but also when drivers are working and are waiting to pick up their riders. This is known as “deadheading,” and contributes to road congestion, especially in big cities.
Another factor likely contributing to the accident rate increase is the “substitution effect,” according to one of the researchers from Rice University, Professor Yael V. Hochberg. Hochberg told Forbes that for every person who decided to find alternative transportation instead of driving drunk, that is a person who would have walked, biked, or taken public transport, but instead substituted those options with ridesharing. This again leads to a higher number of vehicles on the road, which leads to higher accident rates.
Of course, the factors that contribute to accidents among the general driving population also apply to ridesharing drivers. They may be driving distracted from tinkering with the GPS or communicating with riders. Moreover, they might be picking up riders in unfamiliar areas, which can lead to issues like stopping abruptly or not following the rules of the road. Speeding and driving while fatigued are also possible issues for ridesharing drivers, both of which increase the risk of crashing.
Positive Effects of Ridesharing in California
The increase in traffic fatalities is a problem that municipalities and regulatory agencies will likely need to address—perhaps by dealing with the problem of congestion, or by enforcing some enhanced safety standards. However, it’s also important to note the benefits ridesharing has imparted, particularly in California’s big cities.
Studies conducted by the University of California at Davis and Moll Law Group saw a decline in arrests for driving under the influence in California’s biggest cities. Arrests were down 32% in San Diego, 28% in San Jose, 26% in Sacramento and 14% in Los Angeles, in the two years after ridesharing was introduced to the cities.
The trend seems to be holding in other large U.S. cities as well. Las Vegas DUI arrests dropped 37% from 2013 to 2016. Uber launched there in 2015. Declining DUI arrests were also reported in Seattle, Denver, Chicago and Philadelphia, following the launch of ridesharing services in those cities.
“Whenever more vehicles are on the roads, accident rates rise. Hopefully this spike in accidents will begin to decline, as cities work to accommodate changes in the way people use transportation. We are encouraged by the stark decline in DUI arrests in California and around the country with the introduction of ridesharing,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
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DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.