The ridesharing impact on drunk driving

Published: Nov. 1, 2019 at 8:16 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 at 8:17 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Uber and Lyft driving have become popular side hustles for people around the world. But for one driver the ride sharing services are more than just a full-time gig.

"Oh my goodness, it has been awesome, I have loved it. It’s made my life so much happier,” Leigh Ann Browne, who is a full-time Uber and Lyft driver said.

She's been her own boss since August of 2018.

"That’s probably the biggest benefit, I don’t have to hear or listen to anybody else except what my budget needs,” Browne said.

There are a lot of reasons why she does it.

"It’s not the same old same old. I love it because I get to meet people from all over the world who come into this city,” Browne said.

But, quite possibly the most important reason is Browne has a brother who is a former alcoholic. Driving for a living gives her the chance to help people get home safe after a night of drinking rather than those people getting behind the wheel of their own car.

"I think that’s why I’m out here, I want to be of service to the community,” Browne said.

So, have ridesharing services had a real impact on DUI crashes in the Birmingham metro? We asked the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama. CAPS tracks traffic safety statistics around the state.

“We did see some decreases in DUI in the urban areas after Uber came into play. How much of that is due to Uber, you can’t say for sure,” Rhonda Stricklin, associate director of CAPS said.

CAPS reports there’s been a decline in DUI crashes in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa since 2015 which is about the time Uber entered the market. DUI crashes have decreased over five percent in Birmingham since 2015 and they are down over 25% in Tuscaloosa. Even though overall crashes are up statewide, those involving DUI are down according to CAPS.

“It’s reasonable to think that at least some of that could be due to the ridesharing services. Anytime you can get an impaired driver off the roads that’s beneficial to them and everyone else,” Stricklin said.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the numbers from CAPS:

City of Tuscaloosa DUI Crashes

2013 - 171

2014 - 136

2015 - 179

2016 - 147

2017 - 124

2018 - 134

City of Birmingham DUI Crashes

2013 - 138

2014 - 235

2015 - 286

2016 - 278

2017 - 251

2018 - 271

Statewide Urban Only DUI Crashes

2013 - 3498

2014 - 3301

2015 - 3701

2016 - 3514

2017 - 3410

2018 - 3412

Brown says she definitely gets the impression she and other drivers help out when it comes to keeping drunk drivers off the roads.

"I have had people at night who are policemen say, ‘Thank you so much,’” Browne added.

CAPS research shows DUI crashes are seven times more likely to end in a fatality than other crashes. On its website, Uber says its working with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization to help save lives and encourage people to leave the keys at home and take a safe ride.

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