There were 111 million self-reported cases of alcohol-impaired driving in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drunk driving killed nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. that same year, about a third of all traffic related deaths, amounting to 28 people killed each day. Damage caused by drunk driving costs more than $44 billion annually.
Many efforts have tried to address the problem with ad campaigns, more severe punishments and increased efforts by law enforcement to monitor and stop drivers, with varied results. But it turns out a business just trying to make money may have had one of the most significant effects on the problem, at least in America’s most densely populated city.
The ride-sharing application Uber was introduced to most boroughs of New York City in May 2011 and was adopted quickly. A new working paper by Jessica Lynn Peck of the Graduate Centre at the City University of New York found that the city has seen a 25 to 35 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes since then, amounting to about 43 fewer crashes per month. The paper analyzed data between January 2007 and July 2013.
New York City has widespread access to taxis and other public transportation, so why would Uber make such a large difference? The study doesn’t provide a definitive answer, but Peck does speculate that it has to do with Uber’s simplicity and less wait time for customers.
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