Will Uber Cut Down on DWI’s in Springfield?

According to a recent Springfield News-Leader article, DWI arrests in Springfield have gone down since Uber became operational in Springfield 4 months ago. See the News-Leader article below.

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(Photo: News-Leader Illustration)

When Missouri lawmakers passed a bill this session making it easier for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in the state, they lauded the bill’s potential to reduce drunken driving.

They could have used Springfield as an example.

Since the City Council tweaked the rules to help bring Uber to Springfield in November, the number of DWI arrests in the city has gone down. But there’s some debate about how much credit to give the new companies, which allow customers to hail rides from nearby drivers using an application on their smartphones.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company’s drivers do most of their pickups on the weekends in downtown Springfield, where people might otherwise choose to drink and drive.

Lt. Stacey Parton, in the Springfield Police Department’s traffic unit, said he has the Uber application on his phone and he sees its potential for reducing drunken driving, but he needs more data to truly understand Uber’s impact.

“I will say that Uber has had an effect,” Parton said. “Statistically, I am not sure that we can quantify it right now, but it has had a good effect.”

Uber launched in Springfield in November
Uber launched in Springfield in November (Photo: David Ramos, Getty Images)
From December to March — the first four full months that Uber has been operational in Springfield — there was an average of 47 DWI arrests per month in Springfield.

That’s down from an average of 55 DWI arrests per month in 2016, and way down from the five-year average of 76 DWI arrests per month in the city.

But DWI arrests had been trending down in Springfield prior to Uber’s arrival in November and Lyft launching in January.

Parton said there are other factors to consider when looking at DWI numbers.

In late 2014, Greene County instituted a policy allowing police to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test. Parton said he believes that policy is working as a deterrent.

“Word has gotten around,” Parton said. “And I think it has caused people to think more about drinking and driving.”

Parton also pointed to ongoing public awareness campaigns, more housing downtown and the dissolution of SPD’s dedicated DWI unit as factors that might be leading to fewer DWI arrests.

Academic studies have drawn varying conclusions about the impact of ride-hailing companies on drunken driving.

A 2016 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that Uber did not have a noticeable impact on drunken-driving fatalities in the nation’s 100 most populated metropolitan areas. But Uber points to a 2015 Temple University study that found a drop in alcohol-related driving fatalities after Uber was introduced in California.

On its website, Uber also touts a 10 percent drop in DWI arrests that followed Uber’s launch in Seattle.

 

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