Uber reduces alcohol-related driving deaths: study

The launch of controversial rideshare service Uber in a city results in a decrease in alcohol-related driving deaths, an independent study has found.

Service's low cost cited as biggest factor in rates of use

An independent study links a decrease in alcohol-related vehicular deaths to the launch of ride-share service Uber. (CBC)

The launch of controversial ride-share service Uber in a city results in a decrease in alcohol-related driving deaths, an independent study from Temple University in Philadelphia has found.

The study — to be presented at the Academy of Management conference in Vancouver next week — looked at data from California, beginning in 2009, when the service first launched, through to 2014.

During that period, the study found that fatalities from car accidents where alcohol was a factor decreased. Depending on the city, the decrease ranged from 3.6 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

More than 1,000 deaths per year in California are attributed to alcohol-related road accidents.

"What we actually found out is that when Uber X is introduced in a city, we find there is a significant decrease in the number of drunk driving related fatalities in those cities," Sunil Wattal, one of the study's authors told CBC News.

Price the biggest factor

The biggest factor in Uber's impact, the study suggests, was cost — typically rates are offered at 20 to 30 per cent lower than local taxi rates.

"Results [indicate that] price is the main barrier to reducing the DUI rate in many jurisdictions. Furthermore, results suggest a significantly stronger effect in larger cities," the study concludes.

The importance of low cost is further strengthened, the study notes, by the findings that during peak times when rates run higher — at weekends and public holidays, for example — there is no resulting drop in the number of alcohol-related driving deaths.

Uber in Canada

Uber has met with varying levels of resistance in nearly every Canadian city it has operated in even as it has won plaudits for its innovative business model.

Municipal officials from Vancouver to Halifax have accused the company of operating illegally at best and endangering the lives of passengers at worst. They assert that Uber provides the services of a taxi company without complying with the licenses and regulations that govern that industry.

The Vancouver Taxi Association — a vocal opponent of Uber — told CBC News that the impact on drinking and driving deaths in B.C. were unlikely to be radically affected if Uber were licensed, as stiffer drink driving laws mean numbers are already on the decline in the province.