Ride-sharing reduces DUIs, but car thefts go up

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, a driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a passenger in downtown Los Angeles, Calif. Passengers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport will be allowed to leave in an UberX car starting Thursday, Jan. 21. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new study done by two New England professors — one at Providence College and one at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts — finds the use of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft saves lives and reduces driving while intoxicated.

But, while drunk driving may drop, more cars are being stolen, the study authors said — because they’re not being used.

Dr. Angela K. Dills of Providence College, and Dr. Sean Mulholland of Stonehill College looked at monthly data between 2010 and 2014 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) measured against fatal car crashes, before and after Uber entered a city, as well as crime reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Providence, Boston, Worcester and areas of Connecticut were included in the data examined.

“We find that fatal accident rates generally decline after the introduction of Uber,” they said in a 27-page report published May 31.

Each year on average, Dills and Mulholland found DUI arrests drop just over 51 percent after ride-sharing enters a city, and deaths from car crashes drop 16.6 percent.

The authors focused on Uber because it has the lion’s share of the market and the company provides exact data Uber began service in cities, counties or regions.

Still, there appears to be a surprising trend as ride-sharing increases. The study authors found that counties experience “statistically significant” increases in car theft arrests after Uber enters the market; increases of more than 100 percent on average. The likely reason: “an increased propensity for Uber passengers to leave personal vehicles” — that they’re not driving themselves, because they leave driving to Uber — “parked in public locations.”

The flip side of the crime increase is that disorderly conduct arrests decline with the arrival of Uber, along with assault arrests. Assaults go down, Dills and Mulholland believe, because using Uber reduces the time passengers are waiting outside on streets, exposed to potential street crime.

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