TNC and rider safety



Here is something we could have used during the Proposition 1 debate. It turns out that having TNCs in your community will lead to major reductions in both DWI related deaths and sexual assaults.

At ATX Safer Streets, we’ve noted conflicting findings in the limited existing literature on TNCs, also called ridesharing services. These companies, including Uber, Lyft, and others, offer individuals an alternative transportation mode in addition to taxicabs, mass transit, or other options available in their market. This paper’s findings are significant in that it expands the exploration of data to a larger sample of U.S. cities than previously seen and for a longer time period - from 2000 to 2014.

UT doctoral candidate Frank Martin-Buck explored the relationship of the availability of TNCs to the incidence of drunk driving and other alcohol-related crimes in a variety of US cities. His data supported the finding that the availability of ridesharing services reduces fatal alcohol-related auto accidents by 10% to 11.4% - far greater than what could be explained by chance.

The research also finds that ridesharing has resulted in over 500 fewer fatal accidents since its introduction in 2010. This corresponds to a monetary benefit of over $4.6 billion over just five years. Martin-Buck’s analysis confirms that these positive effects manifest quickly after introduction and persist (and in some cases may even increase) over time.

In cities like Austin, where mass transit is a less available or less utilized option, ridesharing results in an 8.7% to 9.2% reduction in DUI arrests.

But here is the real bombshell. Martin-Buck’s research findings also indicate that the availability of ridesharing corresponds with a significant reduction in arrests for both physical and sexual assaults.

The researcher writes:

"The concerns about ridesharing driver-committed crimes stem from the vetting process for ridesharing drivers compared to that for traditional taxi drivers. Some have worried that less stringent background checks could result in a risk of sexual assaults perpetrated by drivers against their passengers. In this study I examine the effect ridesharing has had on each of these categories of crimes. I find that contrary to these concerns, ridesharing actually corresponds with a significant reduction in both physical and sexual assaults of 7.9% and 9.3% respectively. I further find no change in arrests for other alcohol-related crimes such as public drunkeness and liquor law violations after ridesharing introduction. These results indicate that the benefits of ridesharing availability extend beyond just drunk driving prevention."

This last finding has got to give pause to those who preferred that TNCs not operate at all unless they follow a specific type of fingerprint background check process, as opposed to a comprehensive third-party check. (Interestingly, the National Academies of Sciences took a look at that debate and determined fingerprint-based checks to be no more effective than other methods stating that it was “not able to find a body of evidence indicating whether fingerprinting added to safety one way or another.”)

Martin-Buck’s findings are currently working their way through the peer-review process, and we are looking forward the the final published research and the folks up at the Texas Statehouse should all take a close read.

Ultimately, these findings support what we’ve known at ATX Safer Streets for some time: the availability of ridesharing services is a net gain for our urban centers, particularly those home to a lively nightlife economy, and results in significant improvements to public safety.