Does having easy access to Uber help to reduce the rates of driving under the influence?Common sense and anecdotal evidence suggest that the answer is 100 percent, yes. When the economic and societal costs of an accident and the personal expense of a conviction on driving while under the influence are weighed against a one-time credit card charge, the choice is clearer.
Logic dictates that having ride sharing apps at the tip of everyone’s fingers would substantially cut the rate of drunk or buzzed driving. The power to summon a sober driver with the touch of a smartphone for a reasonable price would lead most reasonable people to guess that DUI (DWI in some states) rates have fallen substantially across the nation. However, a closer look at the available studies seem to paint a murkier picture as to the effects of ride-sharing as it relates to DUI rates.
Local factors such as state laws and access to public transportation can make this a hard case to prove one way or another. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in October 2017 studied four major U.S. cities that suspended ride-sharing services and then reinstated them. In Portland, Oregon, automobile crashes where alcohol played a role plunged 62 percent. Yet, there was no overall change in all other injury-related crashes.
Uber’s research appears to tell a different story. On its website, the company cites a 2015 Temple University study which says cities that implemented ride-sharing with Uber experienced a decrease of 3.6 percent to 5.6 percent in the number of alcohol-related automobile fatalities.
Clearly, long-term studies that take into account factors such as price, availability and alternatives to paid vehicle rides are needed. Considering the public safety benefits of reducing the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents and fatalities, more scientific research to determine the impact of having Uber on the incidence of DUI would benefit everyone.
That said, what is the impact of a DUI arrest or conviction? What are the individual effects of being at the wheel under the influence in a crash that at least causes damage or at the most, loss of life?
The financial costs are tangible and measurable. The average cost to tow and store a car once a driver has been taken into custody is about $170, according to a national survey; bail is another $150.
Those charged can expect to spend an average of $1,900 for a private attorney. Court-ordered fines average about $1,100; that figure includes cases which ended without a conviction and small or no fines imposed.
Once the vehicle insurance companies receive notice of a DUI conviction, the driver can expect to pay about $800 more per year, a surcharge that can stay in place for up to 13 years. Add to that department of motor vehicle fees averaging $260 and traffic school and/or substance abuse courses of about $360 each.
The costs can go higher. In states that require an ignition interlock device, a driver will pay $200 for purchase and installation, plus a monthly maintenance fee.
A total out-of-pocket cost of about $6,500 doesn’t include lost time and wages due to incarceration and other judicial action, loss of employment, loss of insurance, personal property damage and medical bills, and civil penalties from loss claims made by those injured or killed in an accident.
The numbers, which can climb into six or seven figures based on the circumstances, make the average ride-sharing charge of $14 an obvious choice for a person who feels inebriated.
If the financial reasons don’t suffice, consider the moral and emotional implications of being arrested on a DUI charge. There’s possible harm to the general public, to one’s family and friends, and to one’s job or career. And there’s the damage to oneself; a DUI may be a sign of a health problem that is not being addressed.
Even without an in-depth Uber study, common and financial sense dictate that it’s a plus for society and individuals to have a low-cost, easy-to-use, ride-sharing program for inebriated individuals. When in doubt, it’s wise and considerate to open one’s phone and hit the Uber or Lyft button. The public, one’s family and one’s bank account will be grateful.
Alexander Fox is a founding partner of LewisFox, an alcohol beverage and criminal law firm in Coral Gables, Florida. He practices criminal defense for individuals and companies. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-224-1003.