There’s no shortage of articles about Uber and its connection with efforts to reduce drunk driving. Since the UberX service debuted in 2012, the company has actively promoted itself as an alternative to a dangerous drunken ride home.
While MADD in the USA has embraced the company and its claims, MADD Canada is taking its time. The company’s services have only been available in Canada for a few months, so the anti-drunk-driving advocacy organization needs more time to consider whether to embrace this innovative service.
A Viable, Convenient Alternative
Uber’s signature UberX service – rides offered from drivers using their own vehicles – is advertised as a cheaper alternative to taxis. Uber also offers convenience: after a night of partying, revelers can summon a ride with their smartphone, using the device’s GPS function – no need to ask the proprietor what the address of the bar is. The software then summons the nearest available driver.
Concerns: Vetting Drivers
People in some cities have raised concerns about the professionalism and integrity of the drivers offering rides through Uber, as well as questions about whether or not the drivers carry sufficient insurance. Ottawa has been most resistant: as soon as the service began, the city started busting drivers for offering illegal taxi services, despite the company’s insistence that it is a technology company, and not a taxi company.
Uber proudly notes that a study the company performed in conjunction with MADD found a link between the adoption of UberX and a drop in drunk driving collisions. However, the data from that study has been challenged, most notably by ProPublica.
Verdict: It’s All Good
While MADD Canada is not seeking out an alliance with Uber, the organization has not expressed reservations either. MADD wants more choices for people to get home safely, whether through more taxis, rideshares, public transit, or designated drivers.
No one can tell how things will shake out in Ottawa. Most parties seem to agree that more available rides is a good thing. Whether you think Uber is a logical solution to the problem of drunk driving or a means of circumventing existing taxi laws depends on your view of this very disruptive technology.