The study, titled “Ridesharing, Fatal Crashes and Crime,” was co-authored by Angela Dills and Sean Mulholland, researchers at Providence College and Stonehill College’s department of economics, respectively. Dills and Mulholland took in data from 150 cities between 2010 and 2013 and found that when Uber is introduced, fatal crashes, DUIs, and other types crimes decrease.
The rise of ride-hailing apps has drastically changed the lives of certain segments of the population, but not the whole country. A Pew Research study in May found that only 15 percent of American adults have used Uber, Lyft, or one of their smaller competitors. But it turns out you don’t have to use — or to have even heard of — ride-hailing to benefit from it. You just have to be in a city that allows it.
Less fatal crashes
The rate of fatal accidents decreased across the board in cities with Uber.
“Specifically, we find that entry (of Uber) is associated with a 6 percent decline in the fatal accident rate,” the study states. “Fatal night-time crashes experience a slightly larger decline of 18 percent.”
What’s more, the fatal crash rate continue to level off the longer Uber was in operation. The researchers found that for “each additional year of operation, Uber’s continued presence is associated with a 16.6 percent decline in vehicular fatalities.”
Dill and Mulholland only stated the numbers, not the reasons for the decrease. However, the decrease in the rate of fatal crashes — especially at night — is likely related to an even larger decrease they found: the decrease in DUIs.
“Depending upon specification, DUIs are 15 to 62 percent lower after the entry of Uber,” the study says. “The average annual rate of decline after the introduction of Uber is 51.3 percent per year for DUIs.”
The decline in DUIs is predictable. There is less reason to get behind the wheel after a night on the town when a ride can be hailed from your phone.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 21 percent of all fatal crashes in 2013 involved a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. That comes out to 9,461 drivers across the country, and although the number of fatal crashes has decreased over the years, the percent of fatal crashes due to alcohol stayed the same from 2004 to 2013.
The majority of crashes were people aged 21 to 34 — the same age people are most likely to use Uber.
Less crime in general
Surprisingly, it wasn’t just driving related crimes that decreased when Uber was introduced to the 150 cities the research paper looked at. In general, there were also “declines in the arrest rates for non-aggravated assaults and disorderly conduct.”
Of course, the study doesn’t suggest that Uber makes people happier and less aggressive. One reason for the decline could be that alcohol is a big factor in assaults and disorderly conduct. Uber lets people know when their car is coming, so there are less people wandering home on the streets or loitering while waiting for the next taxi to pass.
What this means for cities
Large cities like Austin, and possibly Chicago in the near future, have created legislation that has pushed Uber and Lyft out. City officials are concerned that app-based ride-hail companies and drivers aren’t regulated enough, despite new research that drivers speed less, are less distracted, and drive more cautiously.
In the conclusion of the research paper, Dills and Mulholland state that city officials have no need to fear:
“We investigate and find that many of these concerns are, at least on net, unwarranted. 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. We also observe declines in arrests for assault, DUI, and disorderly conduct. In many cases, these declines become larger the longer the service is available in an area.”
Even with the amount of data collected in this study, the results aren’t conclusive. More research needs to be done using data from cities that once had Uber and Lyft, but have since banned it, for a more clear effect of the ride-hail apps.
Regardless, this study is a good representation for how Uber has been able to contribute to society in the six years the company has been in business.