Uber Customers are Über Drunk
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Uber Customers are Über Drunk


In my crazier moments (aka after 12 am) I’ve thought about applying to be an Uber driver. Even though I already spend an hour or so a day spewing fumes from my Toyota as I trek across town for jobs, meetings and adventures, there’s something about the idea of getting paid to be a DD that seems satisfying. At least once a month I schlep tipsy friends around for free. Why not cash in on my sobriety? Then I thought about having to keep my car clean and wait for strange drunk men to stumble out of whatever cesspool the witching hour has dropped them in and realized yeah, I’d rather be broke and sleeping.

No Shit, Sherlock

The latest from the Department of We Knew That Already suggests that the bulk of Uber users are in fact intoxicated. Normally that wouldn’t be something a company would brag about. (“You bought bacon deodorant? What were you, drunk?”) But since Uber has drawn some criticism for posing a safety risk, the startup stands to gain from marketing itself as an alternative to tempting fate. They’ve even partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And in response to speculation by a curious guy named Nate Good, who graphed data to see whether DUIs had fallen since the dawn of the ride-sharing age, they’ve released some of their own data to support the conclusion that they may be actual AfterPartyHeroes.

Uber’s stats track usage in Pennsylvania, which ranks fourth in the nation for DUIs. In both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Uber use rises sharply on the weekends and peaks daily around 2 am, which is closing time in both cities. In Pittsburgh in particular—which boasts the most bars per capita in the country— the trend was insanely stark. From the shape of the graph, it seems Pittsburghers rarely leave the house for any reason other than to go get plastered and presumably watch Steelers games.

Don’t Give Silicon Valley All the Credit

But are DUI rates really falling? Yes, compared to the few years just before Uber and its ilk entered the picture. But another way of looking at the trend is a return to normalcy. Data from both Philadelphia and San Francisco show that DUI arrests skyrocketed around 2007. Perhaps when the economy hit the skids the miserable hit the bottle. If the post-Uber era has seen arrest rates slide back down to pre-recession levels, it’s hard to know how much credit the companies deserve.

We can only determine so much from this data, what with correlation and causation and confirmation bias and such. The 2 am rush looks legit (I’ve seen it first hand), but to know for sure whether Uber is making a difference, we’d need to know what these sloshed customers would do without it (besides call Lyft or Sidecar). Would they walk, hail a cab, crash with a friend or stagger back into the driver’s seat and hope for the best? We don’t know. But whether or not ride-sharing services are actually making a statistical dent in the DUI toll, having more ways to get home when you’re loaded  is never a bad thing.

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.