Newswise — During 2010-2019, roughly the same decade that more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-related crashes, ridehailing emerged as a technology that was often cheaper and/or easier to access than taxis and public transit. A new study has synthesized research on ridehailing and alcohol-impaired driving, finding that ridehailing can reduce the number of impaired drivers on the roadway, potentially leading to fewer alcohol-related crashes.
These results and others will be shared at the 45th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in Orlando, Florida.
“I study alcohol consumption and acute problems that arise due to drinking, such as assaults, drunk driving, and crashes,” said Christopher N. Morrison, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “The research is very clear that one way to prevent these problems is by changing the environments in which people drink. Ridesharing changes the transportation environment. When these changes affect whole populations, even very small effects can have big impacts, so this question was well worth exploring.” Morrison will discuss his findings at the RSA meeting on 27 June 2022.
“When people make transportation choices, the main things they consider are how fast it is, how easy it is, how expensive it is, and how comfortable it is,” explained Morrison. “On this scoreboard, ridesharing often wins against taxis and public transit. That means that when a person considers driving after drinking, adding ridesharing to their available transportation options could be the difference between their choosing to drive or choosing to get a ride.”
Of the 20 studies that Morrison systematically reviewed – 14 peer-reviewed studies and six unpublished sources that examined ridehailing and alcohol-impaired driving – 17 (85%) found that ridehailing was associated with a decreased incidence of alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-involved crashes. All but three studies were conducted in the US.
“We found that ridesharing certainly seems to be an effective approach to reducing drunk driving and crashing,” said Morrison. “However, the benefits are unlikely to be equal everywhere. Ridesharing will reduce drunk driving and crashing in some places, but not others. Furthermore, ridesharing appears to have important costs too. In places where ridesharing is available, there seems to be an increase in alcohol consumption, assaults, pedestrian crashes, traffic congestion, and air pollution, so it’s important to weigh any benefits of ridesharing against these possible costs.”
While this is still a nascent research area, Morrison believes his findings could help city, county, and state authorities that are trying to find ways to reduce drunk driving and crashing. “Simply put, making ridesharing and other transportation options available to people who are drinking in bars can help reduce drunk driving and crashing,” he said.