A recent study from the University of Chicago and Rice University reports that the rise of ride-sharing services has increased traffic deaths by 2-3% since 2011. The increase is equivalent to up to 1,100 fatalities each year.
One reason for the increase in fatalities is more miles traveled. More miles driven means more auto accidents and more deaths. Uber and Lyft drivers spend, on average, 40% to 60% of their time "deadheading," or driving empty while they search for passengers. The average driver will travel almost 3 miles between fares.
The traffic fatalities include more pedestrian deaths, more deaths on the weekends and at night, and more fatalities overall than normal trends would have predicted.
How the Ride-Share Service Study Worked
Researchers matched the dates when ride-share services like Uber or Lyft launched in a certain city with accident statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These accident rates were then compared to vehicle miles traveled. For example, the resulting rate in San Francisco increased dramatically after Uber launched there in 2010. Similar results were duplicated in other cities.
The San Francisco numbers are striking because, just before Uber launched, traffic deaths in that city fell to their lowest number in years. Nationwide, there were 32,885 fatal car accidents in 2010, the lowest number since 1949. However, deaths rose after the introduction of ride-sharing in U.S. cities. Researchers are unable to discern whether the "ride-share effect" is a short-term adjustment or part of a longer-term pattern.
New York City Capped Ride-Sharing in Response to Increased Accident Rate
In August, the New York City Council passed regulations on ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft. The Council instituted a year-long cap on new licenses while the effects of these services are studied. The regulations also require that drivers be paid a minimum wage.
Supporters of the cap state that the regulations will reduce congestion, protect drivers and fairly regulate the industry. Detractors claim that longer wait times and higher prices will result.
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