On February 21, 2015, in San Jose, California, the unthinkable happened to one local married couple. It was a normal day at the couple’s fruit stand, until a drunk driver came speeding down the road toward them. This driver was on a drunken rampage, hitting parked cars, a telephone pole, and eventually the couple’s fruit stand. The driver eventually came to a stop on Mount Vista Drive, where he was apprehended by the police.
Aside from the couple’s stand and main source of income being destroyed, the husband was immediately sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, where he passed away a few days later. The driver was then charged with twelve criminal counts, including murder. Unfortunately, this type of scenario is not uncommon across the United States and has been very prevalent in the state of California. According to a study done by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in the recent year there were 867 drunk driving fatalities in the state—fatalities involving a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. These fatalities represent 28.9 percent of all total traffic deaths across the state in the most recent year.
One of the most unfortunate details about these accidents and fatalities is that they could have easily been avoided. In the past, drunk driving related accidents have had the ability to be avoided in a few different ways, including hiring a taxi, having a designated driver, or avoiding drinking in situations where you may have to drive as well. However, in the most recent years, there has been an addition to that list, making it even easier to drink and travel responsibly, especially in large cities across the United States, like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
On March 31, 2010, a new service in San Francisco was launched, called Uber. Uber is a service that runs through a phone application. Within this app, people can post that they need a ride from one place to another, and within minutes, a background-checked Uber driver will arrive at the customer’s location to transport them. All of the payment is done electronically through the application, which means that the rider does not need to have cash or a credit card on hand. This also assures that the driver will always get paid for the distance that he or she drives.
Another way that Uber differs from a taxi service is that the application determines your location and alerts a driver all on its own. When a customer needs a ride, all that person has to do is to alert Uber that he or she needs to go to a certain place, and the phone’s location settings do the rest. The rider can track where the driver is so he or she can be waiting when the driver arrives. There is also an algorithm within the application that determines distance, travel time, and cost, so that the rider can know how much the fare will be before he or she arrives at the destination.
Although this service has only been around for a few years, it is quickly growing. With San Francisco being the first Uber location, it now has thousands of local riders, with that number continuing to grow. The revenues in San Francisco alone are growing an average of 200 percent each year, and the Uber market as a whole has generated over $500 million dollars in revenue since its start. This means that the Uber market is three times larger than the taxi market in big cities.
With the establishment of this new type of service, combined with its growth and popularity, it is no surprise that the use of the company and its competitors (Lyft, Curb, Sidecar, and others) is affecting the number of drunk driving related accidents and fatalities, not only in California, but across the country as well. Just recently, in partnership with Uber, Mothers Against Drunk Driving released some ride-share related statistics. This study looked at cities that utilize Uber and compared their current statistics to that city’s statistics from before Uber had gained its popularity.
David Plouffe, Uber’s Senior Vice President, stated that in most cities, the service’s peak hours are Friday and Saturday nights, and the most common pickup locations are bars and food establishments. This means that Uber ridership has been consistently the most popular during the same hours that historically have been the worst for drunk driving.
Not surprisingly, California has been one of the states to see the most drastic change in drunk driving statistics since the popularization of Uber and other similar companies. This is in part due to the number of large cities in the state and the fact that San Francisco was the first city to utilize this service. In the California cities that utilize these services, alcohol related crashes have fallen 65 percent for drivers under thirty from the time the service was introduced. When this number is broken down, the results translate to an average of 60 fewer drunk driving accidents each month. Since Uber’s launch in 2010, the company has estimated that their service has prevented 1,800 accidents and collisions in California alone. Statistics have not yet been released for the country as a whole.
With these statistics, in combination with Uber’s rate of growth, the improvements in drunk driving related accidents looks promising. However, the service is not the only key to decreasing these fatalities. There are many ways to be responsible when consuming alcohol, and ride sharing is only one of many. Whether you have planned to drink alcohol or it is unexpected, always know your options for safe travel. One bad decision can change, or even end, the lives of many.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an alcohol or drug related motor vehicle accident, do not hesitate to contact Drake Law Firm to speak with a personal injury attorney who cares. We are here to help you with your specific situation.