Are Ridesharing Services Affecting Drunk Driving Crashes?

Research over the past few years suggests that the availability of ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, may help reduce drunk driving incidents. With the use of these apps on the rise, it makes sense that drunk driving crashes would decrease, especially in metropolitan cities where this business is booming. While this theory may hold true in some areas, new research shows that Uber usage actually affects accident rates very differently from city to city.

To get a sense of how these services affect alcohol-related crash data, previous studies have largely been averaging the impact of app usage across multiple cities. But researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania took a unique approach in their study by looking at Uber’s impact on drunk driving statistics and car crash histories individually in four different metropolitan cities: Reno, NV; Las Vegas, NV; Portland, OR; and San Antonio, TX. Their findings were surprising.

Ridesharing and drunk driving crashes: Your results may vary

The data revealed that Portland and San Antonio both experienced a decrease in alcohol-related crashes by about 60 percent, but Uber’s presence had no observable effects in Reno or Las Vegas. Additionally, the number of car accidents involving injury did not change in any city. But why?

Christopher Morrison, the lead author of the study recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, believes several factors could be at play. People that have been drinking may be more prone to taking public transit over ridesharing services, especially if it is cheaper and easily accessible. Additionally, in more congested areas that attract tourists, the use of cabs and ridesharing services could be more common, causing such data to be different.

What really drives ridesharing app usage?

The authors of the study are still unsure of exactly why the results between locations are so diverse, and with the number of car crashes involving injuries remaining unchanged, “some caution is warranted.” The analysis provides some interesting data and opens up the floor for further research on how a city’s infrastructure and transportation habits may affect the usage of ride-hailing apps and alcohol-related incidents.

Ridesharing services still provide a safe alternative to drunk driving, and communities and citizens alike should take advantage of a “designated driver for hire.” However, the results reinforce the fact that car crashes involving drunk drivers remain a problem in cities and counties across the country.

Do you think ridesharing services have a positive effect on drunk driving in your city?

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Ignition Interlocks for Motorcycles: Does It Make Sense?

Last May, a study headed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posed an interesting question: does it make sense to apply ignition interlocks to motorcycles?

Examining data from 2011, NHTSA found that motorcycle fatalities “increased from 3,270 deaths in 2002 to 4,612 deaths in 2011.” Of those fatal crashes, 30 percent involved BACs of 0.08 or higher. This was enough for NHTSA to conclude that “it is appropriate to examine the feasibility of wider use of alcohol ignition interlocks to help reduce alcohol-related crashes and fatalities on motorcycles.”

Concerns with ignition interlock device installation

While this premise is sound, it’s also not without some issues. The first being availability—there are no interlocks designed specifically to be used on motorcycles. Instead, interlocks used on passenger vehicles are being adapted to fit onto motorcycles. Another issue is that only two manufacturers offer limited support for the use of their ignition interlocks on motorcycles. Most companies won’t allow their devices to be installed on motorcycles at all.

Safely storing and maintaining a device is another issue. Proper battery power, theft, and damage from drops, weather, or increased levels of vibration are all concerns when it comes to devices originally designed for passenger vehicles. Redesigns can be made in each of these scenarios, but each new solution brings with it added cost.

Safety the biggest issue?

The biggest concerns though are twofold: retesting requirements and liability. An initial breath test allows for a vehicle to be started, but interlocks also require additional tests while the vehicle is in operation. This becomes difficult, if not dangerous, when a rider is operating a clutch with one hand and a brake with the other. Safe retesting therefore, requires stopping the motorcycle completely, otherwise, manufacturers run the risk of liability. In fact, the primary reason given by manufacturers regarding their hesitation to equip motorcycles with interlocks was the potential risk assumed if an accident occurred during a retest while the motorcycle was in operation.

Worth a try

Ultimately, NHTSA concluded that despite the lack of interlock devices being designed specifically for use on motorcycles, “an adequate and safe motorcycle interlock program is possible with existing equipment.” In addition, though reasonable concerns exist with regard to safety, liability, installation, and maintenance, the biggest of which “can likely be overcome with changes in the statutes.”

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