Did the Rise of Ride-Hailing Contribute to a Decrease in Chicago DUI arrests?

DUI arrest have dropped overall in the years since ride-hailing debuted in Chicago. Image: Moll Law Group
DUI arrest have dropped overall in the years since ride-hailing debuted in Chicago. Image: Moll Law Group

Studies have shown that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are making traffic congestion worse and contributing to a decrease in transit ridership in American cities, which is why the city of Chicago recently implemented a new tax on ride-share to fund CTA infrastructure. But one definite benefit of the rise of ride-hailing is that the services make it easier to go out on the town without taking a private car, which helps people avoid intoxicated driving on their way home.

A study recently commissioned by Moll Law Group attempted to quantify whether there was a reduction in DUI arrests in ten major cities in conjunction with the launch of ride-share. These included Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The report compared the average number of DUI arrests two years before Uber launched in these cities to the average number during subsequent years and found that the number decreased in all of the cities.

Las Vegas and San Diego had the largest decreases, 37 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Most of the cities have seen a fairly steady decline in arrests since before Uber launched, which may be attributable to a number of factors, including the possibility of decreased DUI enforcement by police. Therefore, it’s not entirely clear whether ride-sharing has accelerated the decrease in arrests.

For what it’s worth, Chicago has seen a significant drop in DUI arrests in recent years. In the two years before Uber debuted here in September 2011, the average number of arrests per year was 4,018, according to Chicago Police Department data. From 2011 to 2016, the average number of arrests declined to 3,284 per year, an 18 percent dip.

But, again, correlation is not causation, so it’s not certain that the decrease in Chicago DUI arrests can be attributed to ride-sharing. In fact, the number of arrests actually spiked in the year after Uber appeared on the scene, increasing from 3,037 in 2011 to 3,795 in 2012, before dropping continuously over the next four years to 2,592.

While the study doesn’t conclusively prove that ride-hailing deserves credit reducing drunk driving, it does suggest that — as one might expect — the technology may be contributing to a reduction in DUI arrests in Chicago and across the country.

  • Chicago60609

    So we are to believe the study which indicates ride sharing has increased traffic congestion, but we are to be skeptical of study that indicates ride sharing has decreased incidences of DUI citations?

    I love the liberal mind.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The research in the other studies was a lot more robust, rather than just a quick look at DUI arrest numbers:

  • Chicago60609

    From the usastreetsblog study cited: ”

    Avoiding driving when drinking is another top reason that those who own vehicles opt to use ride-hailing versus drive themselves (33%).

  • David Henri

    How in the world is this related to the liberal/conservative issue?

  • WalkThruWater

    DUIs are directly correlated to enforcement. What was going on in these cities at the time? Did the number of DUI check points drop too? What about the overall number of traffic stops? Crashes were alcohol was a factor? It isn’t surprising that 2016 was such a low number for Chicago because the CPD pretty much stopped doing traffic stops after the Laquan McDonald video came out (https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160331/bronzeville/chicago-police-stops-down-by-90-percent-as-gun-violence-skyrockets/). The fact the researchers didn’t mention this shows how lazy and useless this study was.

  • BlueFairlane

    It’s a fairly straightforward thing to say “this number of cars are on the road thanks to ride sharing” and “traffic congestion has increased this much.” This is all straight numbers and simple math requiring no unfounded leaps of causation. But I’d love to see how you’d empirically isolate ride share from a dozen other possible explanations for a reduction in DUIs.

    I’d say I love the conservative mind, but I have yet to see one.

  • Chicago60609

    I think an econometrician could perform some regression analysis to test the hypothesis. And again, one of the “good” studies cited by the author reports that a third of ride share riders utilize the service so they don’t drink and drive.

  • BlueFairlane

    I highly doubt an econometrician could tease out the reason for the reduction of DUIs, but if you have a study available, I’d love to see it.

    As for the “good” study you’re citing, you’re misinterpreting the data point you’re quoting, as if to say that this third of respondents is only using ride share when they’re drunk. For all we know, as the data is presented, they may have used ride share a thousand times and been drunk three of them. This gives us no indication whatsoever how many specific rides are being taken because somebody was avoiding drinking and driving.