Want Fewer Deaths and Fewer DUIs? Ride Uber

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Remember when people were peddling that #deleteUber nonsense? Well, here’s a few more reasons to hate Uber1 according to a 2016 study:

Using a differences-in-differences specification and controlling for county-specific linear trends, we find that the entry of ride-sharing tends to decrease fatal vehicular crashes. Our (unweighted) estimated 1.1 percent decline in vehicle fatalities for each additional quarter are smaller than those found by Greenwood and Wattal (2015).

We…observe declines in arrests for assault and DUI. Specifically, we find that Uber’s entry lowers DUIs rates by 6 to 27 percent. The magnitude of our findings are smaller than those found by Jackson and Owens (2011) who show that DUIs decreased by 40% when the Washington DC Transit Authority expanded late night Metro transportation services. In many cases, these declines become larger the longer the service is available in an area. These beneficial declines are somewhat offset by increases in arrests for motor vehicle thefts (pg. 15).

Here are the specifics on fatal accidents:

Our unweighted estimates are consistent with Uber leading to larger declines in fatal accidents the longer the service is available. Fatal crashes decline by 0.5 percent for each additional month or 1.5 percent for each additional quarter Uber is available. Night-time fatal crashes decline by 0.9 percent for each additional month or 2.7 percent per quarter. The number of fatalities decline by 0.37 percent for each additional month or 1.1 percent for each additional quarter Uber is available. Our estimates are a third of the size as those in Greenwood and Wattal (2015) who find a “3.6% – 5.6% decrease in the rate of motor vehicle homicides per quarter [or 0.9% – 1.4% per month] in the state of California.” In the weighted regressions, the estimated effect over time tends to be smaller and statistically significant. We observe statistically significant and economically meaningful declines in fatal accidents, fatal night time accidents, and the number of fatalities the longer Uber is available.

…Overall, our findings suggest that Uber does not increase overall fatal crash rates and, for some specifications, is associated with a decline in fatal crash rates (pgs. 12-13).

And for various crimes:

The results are similar with and without weights: counties with Uber experience statistically significant declines in arrests for other assaults and DUIs. The magnitudes are economically important and typically larger for the weighted estimates. For other 14 assaults, the entrance of Uber is associated with a 11 to 18 percent decline. The availability of Uber is associated with a 6 to 27 percent decline in DUIs. Counties experience a 55 to 157 percent increases in arrests for motor vehicle thefts after the introduction of Uber. This may come from an increased propensity for Uber passengers to leave personal vehicles parked in public locations.

…For DUIs, we witness a 2.8 to 3.4 percent decline for each additional month of Uber service. We continue to observe declines in arrests for assault; each additional month of Uber availability is associated with a 2.4 percent decline in assaults in the unweighted estimate. The results for motor vehicle thefts are also consistent across specifications with some evidence of increasing thefts over time.

Because we are concerned that Uber may enter areas with characteristics that are correlated with crime rates, we restrict the sample to only those areas where Uber services have been offered…[A]rrests for DUI decline by 17 percent with the entry of Uber. Including both the entry and trend effects, the…estimates reveal a 2.7 to 3.9 percent decline in DUIs for each additional month Uber service is available. Motor vehicle thefts increase following the entry of the ride-sharing service. The results for assaults, however, become statistically insignificant.

Our estimates reveal that the introduction of Uber lowers arrests due to DUIs and may lower assaults. Overall, this suggests that the introduction of Uber increases the safety of citizens. We also witness little to no change in liquor law violations, fraud, or embezzlement. This suggests that our findings are not due to overall declines in crime rates. We do, however, witness an increase in the theft of vehicles (pgs. 13-15).

Safer societies with fewer deaths: not a bad trade-off for “selling out” at JFK airport.2

3 thoughts on “Want Fewer Deaths and Fewer DUIs? Ride Uber”

  1. Uber doesn’t need a champion. The well-publicized incidents of rampant misogyny, harassment and racism have gotten Uber the reaction it deserves. The benefits Uber provides to society can still be provided by other companies that don’t have such toxic cultures.

  2. I hope more companies with better cultures pop up. I’m all for it. I’d love to see Uber have to compete by improving their culture and service.

    For this post, think of Uber as proxy for “taxi competition.”

    And while the things you listed are worthy of contempt, the JFK incident was not. And that’s all I listed.

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