Safe Passage: How Services Like Uber Could Alleviate Rural Ohio’s Drunk Driving Problem


Guy waving for Uber

With the rise of smartphone taxi services such as Uber and Lyft, an unparalleled opportunity has been extended to weary pedestrians across the planet, offering affordable, reliable rides at the touch of a button. These services have provided myriad boons to the regions they occupy, from assisting the driving-impaired elderly to revitalizing an underutilized work force. Perhaps their most powerful contribution, however, has been the easy alternative they provide to those considering getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.

According to a study by Philadelphia’s Temple University, alcohol-related crashes and subsequent fatalities were reduced by upwards of 5% in several California cities where Uber has been implemented compared with Uber-less neighboring regions.

Unfortunately, services like Uber have yet to infiltrate many rural areas, including those where drunk driving remains a persistent issue. Rural counties in Ohio are no exception, and statistics collected by the Ohio Department of Public Safety has logged alcohol related crashes in 2016 alone as follows:

  • Richland County: 127 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 99 injuries and 1 death
  • Huron County: 59 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 43 injuries and 3 deaths
  • Ashland County: 63 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 43 injuries and 2 deaths
  • Wayne County: 76 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 42 injuries and 2 deaths
  • Morrow County: 43 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 29 injuries and 2 deaths
  • Crawford County: 31 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 27 injuries
  • Knox County: 43 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 32 injuries.

While the benefits of having a smartphone taxi service in our local communities would be undeniable, the question remains: how can we incentivize Uber to make our towns its next projects? Sure, their success in a distant, urban California context sounds great, but how can we attract their services to a small-town clientele?

Given the dearth of public transport options and independent cab companies available to us, the answer may be simpler than you think; the head of Uber’s East Coast expansion team, Billy Guernier, has offered insight into the company’s strategy when selecting its next service area, insisting that they consider not only the size of the city, but its demonstrated need. It’s not completely out of our hands, though. Guernier has also confirmed that “the number of riders that have opened the app in that city looking for a ride” plays a significant role in the selection process. As pointless as it may seem, it turns out the simple act of installing the Uber app could make all the difference in the future of Mansfield’s transport system, and could ultimately save lives.

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