The popular ridesharing service Uber published a report last week, coauthored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), linking the rise in Uber’s use to a reduction in drunk driving accidents. The connection isn’t entirely clear, however, and has left many scratching their heads.
“When empowered with more transportation options like Uber, people are making better choices that save lives,” the company proudly declared in their report.
David Plouffe — who served as President Obama’s former campaign manager and who now fills the same position for Uber — emailed millions of Uber users to share the good news. “Since we launched uberX in California, drunk-driving crashes decreased by 60 per month for drivers under 30,” Plouffe wrote in the mass email. “That’s 1,800 crashes likely prevented over the past 2 ½ years.”
But what is Uber’s proof to back the claim that they “likely prevented” so many accidents? It doesn’t look like much.
Even MADD cautioned against linking the popularity of Uber to a decrease in drunk driving. “Nobody is saying that there is a causation relationship here, this is a correlation relationship. Purely correlational,” said Amy George, senior vice president of marketing and communications for MADD.
However, MADD seemed to support Uber’s claim in press release published last week titled “New Report from MADD, Uber Reveals Ridesharing Services Important Innovation to Reduce Drunk Driving.”
Uber’s report includes two key graphics to support their claim. The first shows alcohol-involved crashes in California markets where Uber is used, while the second shows the same data, but in cities where Uber’s service is not available. Each graphic compares accidents between drivers under 30 and those 30 and over. However, the charts depict a downward trend of drunk driving accidents in both Uber and non-Uber markets.
Still, Uber and Plouffe are clinging to one aspect of the analysis to drive their point home: drunk driving accidents for those under 30 have decreased more in cities that have Uber than in those that don’t.
“We believe there is a direct relationship between the presence of uberX (Uber’s lowest-cost option) in a city and the amount of drunk driving crashes involving younger populations,” the report states.
While this may be true, Uber fails to provide sufficient evidence in its report that Uber users and those under 30 are apart of the same population. MADD’s George said they have since sent the data analysis to an outside, independent research group for further investigation.
“It’s certainly possible that new services such as Uber have reduced the the number of DWI incidents,” says Damon Chetson, DWI Lawyer, The Chetson Firm. “But, according to federal statistics, the number of DWI-related incidents has been in decline for more than 25 years. It’s hard to point to a single service, such as Uber, as the cure-all for DWI-related accidents.“