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Ridesharing May Reduce Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes

(Reuters Health) – The introduction of ridesharing services in the Houston metro area is associated with significant reductions in motor vehicle collision traumas and impaired driving convictions, a new study finds.

The analysis of data from hospitals, ridesharing reports, and impaired driving arrests revealed that since the 2014 introduction of Uber to the Houston metro area, the overall incidence of motor vehicle traumas during the usual peak periods dropped by almost one quarter, and the number of patients younger than 30 with motor vehicle traumas decreased by nearly 40%, according to the results published in JAMA Surgery.

“The main take-home message is that we’ve shown for the first time that there is a direct correlation between rideshare volume and decreasing motor vehicle traumas,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher Conner, chief resident of neurosurgery at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

“Surveys have shown that a lot of people use ridesharing services to avoid drunk driving,” Dr. Conner said. “I don’t think you’d see as great of an effect in cities like New York City, but in other places, like Los Angeles, I think it would be similar.”

Dr. Conner said he remembers when Uber became available in Houston. “It was so easy,” he recalled. “They would be out there in 10 minutes. That was so convenient.”

“A lot of things have failed in trying to treat this epidemic of drunk driving and this has been one of the few things that actually worked well,” Dr. Conner said, adding that the impact of reducing serious trauma in younger drivers was especially important. “If I get in an accident when I’m 30, that means I could have 30 years of being disabled.”

To explore the impact of ridesharing on motor vehicle traumas related to drunk driving, Dr. Conner and his colleagues turned to several sources of information: hospital data collected at Red Duke Trauma Institute within the Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center and Ben Taub General Hospital (both level 1 trauma centers) between January 2007 and November 2019; rideshare use data from Uber between February 2014 and December 2018 and Google Trends from a search on the terms Uber and Lyft; and impaired driver statistics from Harris County, Texas, between January 2007 and December 2019.

The researchers analyzed a total of 23,491 motor vehicle traumas involving patients with a mean age of 37.9 years, of whom 14,603 (62.1%) were male; 93,742 impaired driving convictions; and more than 24 million Uber rides. Following the introduction of Uber in February 2014, motor vehicle traumas decreased by 23.8% (from a mean 0.26 to 0.21 trauma incidents per hour) during the peak trauma periods of Friday and Saturday nights.

In particular, the number of patients younger than 30 with motor vehicle traumas dropped after 2015, from 866 patients in 2013 to 529 in 2018, a 38.9% decrease.

The incident rate ratio of motor vehicle traumas following Uber deployment was 0.33 per 1,000 indexed rides. Moreover, rideshare use was associated with a significant geographically linked reduction in impaired driving convictions between January 2014 and December 2019 (incidence rate ratio 0.76).

“Generally, this is consistent with what is being found elsewhere,” said Christopher Morrison, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. “There seems to be in most studies a reduction in alcohol-involved accidents and arrests.”

“But the findings for all motor vehicle crashes when you lump them together, you see mixed results,” Morrison said. “You might see one effect in one city and another in a different city. But it’s entirely possible that these results would generalize to other car-dependent cities.”

SOURCE: and JAMA Surgery, online June 9, 2021.

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