Uber and Lyft are rideshare companies that have dominated the industry for years. They operate in locations all around the United States, providing accessible transportation to everyone, everywhere. However, both companies have been in the news lately as they have threatened to leave one of their biggest locations: California. With this potential move looming over the state, what effect will this have on DUI occurrences and arrests in California?
Having an easy, safe way to get home after a night out helps people feel less tempted to drink and drive. Data suggests that this may be one of the reasons for declines in DUI arrests in LA County over the past few years. By reducing the number of people behind the wheels, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft basically act as designated drivers.
In 2010 and 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made arrests for driving under the influence at an extremely high rate. Once Uber and Lyft were established, the number of DUI arrests started to decrease. By 2017, DUI arrests had fallen 32% from five years earlier. Although arrests have increased within the last two years, DUI arrests are still 30% below the level it was at 10 years ago.
While there are many factors that contribute to this decline, such as high awareness of DUI penalties, the Sheriff’s Department believes that rideshare services play an integral role in the shift. Sergeant David Jennings of the traffic division at the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s Lancaster station affirmed that they believe in the importance of utilizing rideshare services. He stated, “There’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI. Anyone who is drinking should partake in ride-sharing services.”
The Uncertainty Behind the Future of DUI Arrests
Unfortunately, California’s most popular ridesharing services are threatening to leave if the court does not approve their appeal to let their drivers be classified as independent contractors. This is in response to Assembly Bill 5 which pushes for independent contractors to be treated employees with benefits. However, this raises concerns about public safety. If Uber and Lyft are not available, people may be more likely to drive themselves home even if they are intoxicated.
Police officers hold these ride-sharing companies in high regard for providing communities with safe driving alternatives. Bakersfield Police Sergeant Robert Pair shares this sentiment, and stated “any resource that is available to community members that would allow them to not drive their own vehicle when they’ve consumed alcohol is definitely a boon…” At the least, even one drunken person’s life can be saved if they choose a rideshare over driving themselves.
We cannot say for sure if DUI arrests will increase with the absence of Uber and Lyft, but it looks like it will be that way.
Update: Uber and Lyft received a temporary reprieve, giving them more time to decide what to do in the situation. They believe that they need to continue fighting for the independence of their drivers. Only time will tell how this will work out.