Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas received a total of $95,000 in grant funds and Uber ride credits to support initiatives that help prevent impaired driving this holiday season. The program, now in its fourth year, offers states ways to provide safe and convenient alternatives to drunk and drugged driving that puts drivers, passengers and others on the road in danger.
The awards, announced on Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices, in partnership with Uber, aim to encourage drivers who consume alcohol or other impairing substances to use ride-hailing services instead of getting behind the wheel.
“There are already too many families that will have empty chairs at their holiday dinner tables this year because of the pandemic,” Jonathan Adkins, the safety association’s executive director, said in a statement. “It’s tragic and frustrating to see even more lives lost on our roads from completely preventable drunk and drug-impaired driving crashes.”
The impaired driving prevention grants come in advance of the holiday season, typically a particularly deadly time on the nation’s roads, and that the danger is higher this year, the safety association said. “Traffic deaths are increasing at an unprecedented rate – surging nearly 20% in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2020. Drunk and drug-impaired driving increased during the pandemic and as parties and gatherings resume, there are even more opportunities for impaired driving this holiday season.”
The state highway safety offices will use the funds in a variety of ways, like supporting public outreach campaigns using traditional and social media that target local liquor stores, bars and restaurants, concert venues and other locations where alcohol is frequently consumed, and urge hosts of holiday gatherings to share information about the Uber ride credits with their guests.
Several studies have indicated that ride-hailing services may reduce crash and impaired driving rates by offering an alternative to getting behind the wheel impaired. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that after Uber entered the Houston market in 2014, weekend motor vehicle crash traumas decreased by nearly 40% for people under 30, an age group more likely to drive impaired, the safety association said, adding that the analysis also found that DUI arrests decreased across the board after Uber’s arrival.
A new study released on Monday by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, found similar results. The research, published in the “American Journal of Epidemiology,” found that more ride share trips meant fewer alcohol-involved crashes.
“We found the density of active ride share trips near a crash site was associated with decreased odds that the crash was alcohol-involved,” Christopher Morrison, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, said in a statement. “These results are consistent with the suggestion that ride sharing replaces impaired-driver trips.”
Morrison added that while some research shows ride sharing may be associated with increases in other public health problems, like pedestrian crashes, the report’s findings support the use of ride sharing to address impaired driving.
“Drunk driving is devastating for the people who drive drunk and for other drivers and passengers with whom they share the road,” Morrison said. “We can use this information to help reduce these enormous health costs.”