The increased presence of ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are increasing traffic fatalities where the apps are used by as much as 2% to 3%, according to a recent study put out by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The fatalities are rising both for occupants of the cars and for pedestrians.
A Large Rise in Rideshare Traffic Leads to More Deaths
It is often assumed that ridesharing won’t increase accidents, the authors observe, because people think that ridesharing simply replaces a driver of a personal car with the driver of the Uber or Lyft. In fact, Ubers and Lyft increase the number of cars on the road. Another study this summer, for example, found that ridesharing increased driving on city streets a whopping 180%.
The increase in driving occurs for a number of reasons. People who previously used public transportation such as buses or trains may be taking advantage of the increased convenience and reasonable cost of ridesharing. It’s also possible that people who previously walked or biked are using Lyft or Uber, at least occasionally. Finally, Lyft and Uber may provide a car service for people who previously didn’t use a car at all.
Driver patterns also contribute. Ridesharing drivers need to take their cars to places most advantageous to pick up fares or where they are summoned after completing one ride, adding to the number of miles they spend on the road.
The study also noted that ridesharing increases congestion. The end result seems to be that more cars on the road and more congestion equals more serious accidents.
The increase in fatal accidents was concentrated in larger cities, and in poorer cities as measured by per-capital income.
The authors note that traffic fatalities had been decreasing over the past 20 years, until roughly 2010. Since then, unfortunately, traffic deaths have been rising again. Ridesharing, of course, starting with Uber, began in approximately 2010. While it’s too soon to know whether ridesharing is a cause of the climb in traffic deaths at that time, or whether there are unrelated causal factors, further study likely needs to be done.
What Is the Solution?
Unfortunately, there is no one solution to increasing traffic deaths and driving due to ridesharing. It appears, though, that if people are using ridesharing rather than public transportation, they might be safer in public transportation.
Longer term, lawmakers may want to regulate the number of ridesharing vehicles on the road, or regulate their use on certain high-traffic arterials, as the increase in traffic and congestion they are causing is translating to rising deaths across the country.
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- Barrios, John M., et al. “The Cost of Convenience: Ridesharing and Traffic Fatalities.” Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, University of Chicago Booth School of Business. New Working Paper Series No. 27. October 2018. https://research.chicagobooth.edu/-/media/research/stigler/pdfs/workingpapers/27thecostofconvenience.pdf?la=en&hash=A15B1513F98D7A17B9E37F78DD2EBDC4C6338BFA
- Pyzyk, Katie. “Report: Ride-sharing increases, not reduces, traffic.” Smart Cities Dive. July 27, 2018. https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/report-ride-sharing-increases-not-reduces-traffic/528659/