In the past few years, “ride-sharing” services have become a popular alternative to taxis in cities like Austin. Companies like Uber and Lyft provide smartphone apps which allow people looking for transportation to connect with independent drivers. And while ride-sharing companies tout the social benefits of their services—including a reduction in drunk driving arrests—taxi companies and their supporters have pushed for more local regulation of these new competitors.
Uber launched in Austin nearly two years ago. In October 2014, the Austin City Council voted to allow Uber and other ride-sharing services to operate legally. But the city continues to struggle with regulating ride-sharing. For example, in January 2016 the City Council approved an “opt-in” fingerprint-based background check program for ride-sharing drivers. While the program is not mandatory, only Uber and Lyft drivers who undergo such checks will be allowed to pick up customers at certain locations, such as the Austin airport.
Correlation or Causation?
In lobbying city officials for more favorable regulations, Uber has claimed DWI arrests are down in Austin, at least in part due to ride-sharing. Specifically, Uber cited a March 2015 report, which noted a 16 percent decrease in DWI arrests, according to the Austin Police Department. Uber noted the correlation between the decrease and the fact that was the same year ride-sharing became legal in Austin.
Outside of Austin, there is some academic research that suggests ride-sharing has a positive impact on DWI arrests and drunk driving accidents. A Temple University study of Uber services offered in California between 2009 and 2014 indicated there was a “significant drop in the rate of homicides” following Uber’s entry into the market. But the study’s authors cautioned this was a tentative conclusion based on limited data.
Avoiding a DWI Conviction
While the political controversy over ride-sharing will likely continue for some time, most people agree it is better for people who have been drinking to have more options available for getting home without risking a DWI arrest. After all, the best way to avoid a drunk driving charge is not to drive in the first place.
That said, if you have been charged with DWI, it is important you understand your legal rights. A qualified Austin DWI defense lawyer can assist you with all aspects of your case. Contact the lawyers at Buford & Gonzalez today if you need to speak with someone right away.