Despite the safety concerns many people have about riding in cars with strangers, a new study claims that Uber makes the streets safer.
Researchers at Stonehill and Providence colleges co-authored a study titled “Ridesharing, Fatal Crashes and Crime” in which they examined 150 cities to determine the effects of Uber on auto-related incidents. They found that ridesharing services are related to a decrease in fatal crashes, DUIs and some types of crime.
Sure, ridesharing may make it easier for people to hire a designated driver after a night of drinking, but that reliability may also may inspire them to drink more and become belligerent or disruptive. Meanwhile, Uber drivers are tapping on smartphones as they navigate and confirm pick-ups and drop-offs, a distraction that may increase collision risk.
Given all of these possible scenarios, the authors of the study wondered if Uber has had a net effect on fatal crashes and crime in the past few years since its launch. Analyzing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the authors determined that Uber is responsible for a 16.6 percent decline in vehicular fatalities each year.
Using FBI data, the authors found that the frequency of DUIs has decreased by anywhere from 15 to 62 percent per year, depending on the city. Other examples of crimes that Uber may be responsible for curbing include assaults and disorderly conduct. When it comes to violent crimes, the authors acknowledged Uber’s potential as a getaway car for criminals -- or a rescue network for potential victims.
The one crime that they found has become more common since Uber’s onslaught? Vehicle thefts. Perhaps those perpetrators aren’t happy about surge pricing?
Related: Why Uber Makes Us Uneasy
In all seriousness, Uber celebrated its sixth anniversary in San Francisco yesterday, and it’s been operating in other cities for an even shorter time. More widespread adoption is required to determine Uber’s effects on public safety. Last month, Pew Research reported that merely 15 percent of Americans have taken an Uber or Lyft -- whereas about 30 percent of Americans have never heard of either service. This safety study -- and others like it -- will need to be replicated and peer-reviewed extensively.