On May 9th, Uber and Lyft shut down their ride hailing apps in response to voters shutting down Proposition 1, a bill that would allow drivers to bypass traditional taxi service screening processes. While other apps, such as GetMe or Ride Austin, have sprung up to replace Uber and Lyft, the prices are more steep and there are longer wait times. As a result, there are more stranded drunk people who are desperate enough to get behind the wheel.
From May 9th to May 31st, there were 359 DWI arrests. Last year during the same time frame, there were 334 DWI arrests. This is a 7.5 percent increase in the number of DWI arrests in the weeks following the Uber and Lyft’s departure from Austin and it’s only going to get worse.
Should the City Do Something to Decrease the Number of Drunk Driving Accidents?
Let’s face it, Austinites like to drink. Downtown Austin has more bars per capita than any other city in the country. This combined with the growing population, tourism for huge events, frustration with the public transportation system and a general resentment towards traditional taxi cab services creates the perfect storm for drunk driving.
When Proposition 1 was first introduced in December, prompting Uber and Lyft to threaten to vacate the city, Austin’s Police Chief publicly expressed his concerns for safety by saying their departure would directly impact the amount of DWIs. A Politifact report also showed that since the ride hailing apps came to Austin, the number of drunk driving accidents decreased by 23 percent. Since the study was rated as “mostly true,” it seems safe to assume the numbers will only increase with time.
Austin’s City Council needs to step in and fix the mess Uber and Lyft left behind by finding a compromise to bring the companies back to Austin, working with police to increase enforcement and working with the transportation department to create better infrastructure that accommodates those who like to enjoy Austin’s nightlife.