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Ride-hailing apps may help to curb drunk driving (economist.com)
509 points by petergatsby on Apr 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 367 comments

Based on personal experiences this isn't surprising. When I was in college in a small town in the late 00's, many friends and acquaintances would drive across town after heavy drinking. 10-15 minutes, straight roads, little traffic. Other than not going out, or not getting home, you didn't have many options. It was a hour long walk or a $20-40 cab ride, if you could get one.

I was recently back in town for a wedding and our uber to the hotel from the venue (about the same distance) was $9.

Once came to town (now on the east coast) I instantly noticed many friends who used to drive would take an uber. It's cheap, it's easy to call one from a crowded/loud place, you know how much it will cost, they don't use cash, they know where you are, and you don't have to give directions. For someone intoxicated (or anyone really), these are game changers.

It's the difference between "who's going to drive?" and "who's calling an uber?"

Company politics aside, the accessibility of ride-sharing services introduces numerous real safety benefits on top of the obvious convenience.

It has always amazed me how casually people drink and drive in some countries; the US especially springs to mind.

Over here, drinking and driving is an extremely shameful and embarrassing thing to do. I would say it's on par with hitting a child. You just don't do it, not to save 20 bucks, or to save you from walking an hour.

It isn't that, the cab rides are never just $20, and often there are no cabs at all. The USA just has crappy non car transportation options. And it isn't just an hour walk in many places, but a few hours walk on dark streets with no side walks. When I was living in the Deep South, I sometimes had to take people home 20+ miles out in the middle of nowhere.

I used to think the same - I've lived in plenty of places with no public transportation. No choice, I'd say, bemoaning the lack of decent public transport.

But then I was in a similar situation off in a small town in Norway. I was at a 80th birthday party in a small town. Most of the attendees were drunk. Everyone already knew someone to take them home, and organized themselves accordingly, some waiting a bit for the sober driver to return empty. A few found someone at the party (my spouse)- and then proceeded to drink. It was nearly surreal to be in the situation.

The truth is that in the states, it is OK to say, "I've only had X beers, so I'm ok to drive." IT is socailly acceptable behavior. And no one really keeps track most times, so if they seem sober enough to us or we know better, we'll let them go. The acceptable BAC level is much lower here - one beer can send you over the limit - and penalties are harsher, so that could be a major factor as well.

IIRC, the legal limit in Norway us basically the measurement error of the BAC tests; basically you should fail if you've had anything at all to drink.

That was one of those things my Norwegian spouse made sure I knew beforehand. It is .02 or something like that, and I believe it is measured slightly differently.

He's also said that I can get penalized - through loss of license and other means - just by being a sober passenger with a drunk driver. It benefits me to make sure the other person is sober.

This makes me very uneasy.

If their field equipment is anything like SCRAM bracelets (same basic technology as a Breathalyzer) they're cutting all sorts of corners (demanding precise readings out of sensors that are running well outside their recommended operating environment with less calibration than recommended) and throwing false positives left and right.

Drunk driving penalties are too stiff to play fast and loose like that.

In Australia, we're breathalyzed and if it's positive we go back to the police station/mobile testing unit for a blood test, so the breathalyzer is really only an early indicator.

> Vidar Refvik, director of police at the Justice Ministry, said police will use the same combination of "breathalyser" and blood tests to enforce the new law as they did the old one. He predicted the lower limit will yield anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 more arrests, a rise of about 15-20 percent.

Seems like Norway would be the same.

can a drunk passenger of a drunk driver be penalized as well?

That I'm not sure of, but I don't think so. Assumedly, the sober person is supposed to have the wherewithal to understand the danger the drunk driver is putting themselves and others. On the other hand, the drunk passenger might well be more drunk than the driver and be too impaired to make that judgement.

Thinking? I'm not thinking it is ok! No no, I'm just saying why people are idiotic enough to do this.

The BAC level now for Utah is .05. It isn't like all of the US states are slouching. Of course, Utah is different from the deep south.

Sorry for that confusion. I quite understood and took it as a "collective thought", for lack of better words. I've heard the excuse from folks quite often and always thought it was a bit ridiculous, especially with the sideline, "but it isn't good to drink alone!". My personal solution was better public transport.

It's actually still .08, not .05 (yet). It will be in about 1.75 years from now if there's no successful repeal before then. Given the LDS majority in the state, good chance it will stand in some form.

This is the least important issue of all time but somehow it is getting the most press. It should just pass and be done with. By the way I get annoyed when people say LDS is the majority here - LDS only makes up 41% of the entire state, and closer to 30% in SLC. The citizens aren't voting on this bill anyway.

For anyone looking into this, the first sentence of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Utah#Religion literally says "A majority of the state's residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)."

The lowball estimates of 41% come from things like the following: "Professor Tim Heaton, who studies LDS demographics for church-owned Brigham Young University, says the county numbers probably come from church membership rolls, and that between half and one-third of those people are not active in the faith. If that's true, then, at most, 41.6 percent of Utahns are church-going Mormons." (2005 source http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/ci_2886596 ) It's at least slightly nontrivial to decide on the right definition, but I think church membership is a perfectly fine measurement.

As such, almost every other publication and measurement supports the "obvious" claim that Utah has a Mormon majority of (60+some)% and even Salt Lake County may have a (50+epsilon)% Mormon majority.

Exampe source from 2014: http://www.sltrib.com/news/1842825-155/mormon-populace-picks...

> By the way I get annoyed when people say LDS is the majority here

Are you annoyed that the entire state was founded by LDS pioneers? Without the mormons, Utah would be west colorado wasteland or another desolate, sparsely populated state like Wyoming.

And 41% can be a majority depending on how you break down the remaining 59%

No, why would I be annoyed about the history of the founding of the west? I am very very familiar with it.

I'm only annoyed that people have been stating that same old statistic which hasn't been true for at least a decade.

41% is never a majority. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majority

> I'm only annoyed that people have been stating that same old statistic which hasn't been true for at least a decade.

Do you have a source? Wikipedia seems to still support the "same old statistic" in a lot of ways and indicates by all accounts an LDS majority in Utah.

> 41% is never a majority

In my country, 41% of people are red party, 38% are blue party, and 21% are green party. Which party has the majority share of voters?

I think you're confusing 'majority' and 'plurality'.

My mistake, you are correct - plurality is the correct word here.

In my example the party with plurality can capture the majority of the vote, but that doesn't necessarily mean the party itself is a majority.

I really doubt the penalties are harsher in Norway.

I live in one of the few areas of the US that still doesn't have ride sharing services -- upstate New York, where they are banned and still being debated in the state government[0].

I also live in an area where there are 4 colleges and universities in two towns within 10 miles of each other. I went to one of these colleges, and have seen what people do to get to and from the bars first hand. There's one taxi service that I'm aware of, and they charge $30 to go between the two towns, one way. It's a rural area and most roads have speed limits of 55 MPH. Most of the college students are not locals and don't know the roads. Our winters are also harsh and make for dangerous driving conditions even without alcohol. The blotters are full of DUI arrests, accidents, and deaths.

Therefore, unless I have a real need, I don't drive between like 9 PM and 4 AM Friday through Sunday. Why they still haven't passed legislation to allow Uber/Lyft here, other than partisan bickering, I have no idea... I have no doubt that it would help tremendously.

[0] https://ridesharingny.com/

Hey hows Potsdam? Sounds like it hasn't changed in the decade since I was there. Not that I expected it to.

Hahahaha, was it that obvious? I grew up around here and graduated from one of the four schools (gotta stay a little anonymous) in 2009. I'm not sure why I'm still here, really.

It was a little obvious but probably only for someone who lived there.

Fair enough. To answer your question no, not much has changed. There's a knockoff Chipotle restaurant in both towns now which is pretty good. Pretty sure the Tick Tock is closed for good. And...that's probably it.

Makes sense, but if you know that your only way back home is your car and you still pop the cork, you're acting like a bad person in my book ("hitting a child" level indeed).

Please note that I've never driven while drunk, I don't even drink that much, and I've always been the one to take people home who were drunk.

Understanding why people do shit is quite different from condoning shit.

Oh sorry! I meant "you" as in "one". I didn't mean you personally! :-) Quite the contrary, and I didn't read your post as condoning anything.

That's fine, but you're not going to change social mores overnight (perhaps ever). The fact that ride sharing apps are helping is a huge plus in my book.

As a single datapoint, it took about fifty years in the UK.

Maybe the fact that there are no buses and cabs at night is because people are driving home from bars anyway?

Here's the thing: it's not that we have great transportation, what we don't have is bars and restaurants pop up in some random spot next to a road, with a big parking lot in front. If you build a restaurant like that, you kind of already made clear that it's a restaurant for people in cars.

I lived in a college town in the states. The popular bars were generally around campus or in the downtown area - both places known for having too little and/or inconvenient parking. Folks drove nonetheless, however. Only a portion of patrons lived or worked in the area, the rest had to travel. This is really more key, I think, than the lack of parking spaces. A good number of folks have to travel outside of walking range to go to any such establishment.

Most bars in the suburban US don't stand alone; they tend to be accompanied by other restaurants and strip centers. I'll post a few Street View links for the northern suburbs of Dallas:

https://goo.gl/maps/AfQX2VDpYaA2 - The Draft House, Far North Dallas. Note the strip center that contains, among others, a sushi/Thai food place, a pizzeria, and a food mart. (as a side note: I used to go to the Draft House regularly but stopped after management changes ran it into the ground)

https://goo.gl/maps/bmSsv6ZgGyQ2 - The Irishman, Far North Dallas. If you're not careful, you might not even notice it among all the other places there.

https://goo.gl/maps/mGFCmq669xP2 - Katy Trail Ice House Outpost, Plano. This is a huge, huge shopping center.

https://goo.gl/maps/kEdHh41QAJF2 - Lonestar Grill and Sports Cafe, Richardson. In the middle of a strip center with a freestanding Dickey's. If you don't see it, look waaaay in the back, just to the right of the Dickey's.

https://goo.gl/maps/Fy946RDP6Ly - The Hub & Ron's Place, Addison. Next to a UPS store and a whole bunch of other shops. The two bars are connected; the logo for Ron's Place is an R inside a square.

> Most bars in the suburban US don't stand alone

I don't know if that is really true. Or to say, what is your definition of a suburb?

I've seen plenty of bars out in the middle of nowhere, especially in small towns surrounded by rural communities.

Having frequented all of those places sans Lonestar, I can attest to their being plenty of parking in most cases (draft house a bit scary late w/ the clientele, and the hub you may have to park a bit off to the side but not too bad). Sadly, by those links you have described the problem: distances. Even with Uber's cheap cost, it is still prohibitive to hail one for a 20 min drive. HH for most companies in these areas include coworkers who may live 40+ miles from each other.

> 20+ miles out in the middle of nowhere

That's the reason there are no cabs and I don't blame cab drivers. They don't get paid to sit around 40 minutes to find a passenger. I'm surprised that finding an uber in one of those places is not difficult either.

Outside of the US, a lot of the population is very condensed (well the US is to some degree) making cabs and public transportation much more efficient/effective IMO.

With Uber the driver can sit in his middle-of-nowhere house (or work on his garage, yard, etc.) for those 40 minutes with his driver app on, and get in his car only when the app alerts him that he has a fare. This will take the driver to a central location where there are short waits and frequent fares.

I remember reading a post from an Uber driver in a small town. Basically, instead of idling, he'd just use his house as a waiting area. So instead of just waiting around, he'd be at home, doing other stuff until he got an rider. Then he'd get in his car and drive them where they needed to be.

That only works if trips are originating from nearby. I've been to some shady Louisiana bars out in the middle of nowhere, I'm not sure how even Uber would work out there.

If he lived next to the bars or downtown that would probably be reasonable, but I can't imagine he would bring in too much money (as opposed to living in a large metropolitan area).

It really depends on how close the rural area is to a population center.

Sounds like a perfect case for autonomous cars. They don't have to be paid to wait.

I suspect that the main obstacle for self driving cars, if they do eventually exist, is not going to be finding use cases for them.

Gas, wear and tear & depreciation aren't free though, these are always going to be higher cost areas to serve.

How much wear and tear for a robot that is just sitting still listening to the internet uplink? If only every tenth of all cars currently stored on public parking would be hailable robots you would get very comfortable availability even in the remotest village. Occasional idle rebalancing drives would probably be less common than the idle leg of current “go pick someone up“ or “bring someone somewhere and return" trips.

If robot taxis happen, they won't be just like regular taxis without a driver. The mix between investment, hourly cost and per mile cost would change a lot, making entirely new business models possible and shifting the optimization peaks of existing ones.

Personally, if I would somehow happen upon a dozen robot taxis to turn into a business, I would select elderly people in a rural area as my target audience. Not your typical early adopter and quite some natural churn (short age window between should not drive anymore but still able to take care of themselves), but you get awesome ad targeting if you put out flyers in the doctor's waiting room. Oh, and you need to hire the one taxi driver who currently serves the doctor's appointment market in that area as your support guy who chats all the nice old ladies through the introductory phase over the car's hands free.

Except that you are not paying for "gas, wear and tear & depreciation" when you call a taxi. You're not even paying for the human driver. You are paying for the monopoly.

Even if calling a driverless car cost more for remote areas, it would (or at least could) still cost a fraction of the cost of a taxi. $30 instead of $120 for a long distance drive is totally reasonable.

$30 for a 8 mile trip when your making $7hr is really hard on the budget. It might be way cheaper, but it is still unfordable for the median person in a rural area.

You may have missed it, but my grandparent's comment - and my reply - were regarding driverless cars. There is no driver making $7/hour in an autonomous driverless car. (Off-topic aside: no taxi driver makes $7/hour). There's a reason an easy trip costs $50-80 in a taxi, and it has nothing to do with human labor or maintenance of the car. A driverless vehicle will not have to make $100+/hour to make up for maintenance costs.

Nor do driverless cars have to make up for "idle time". The only legitimate counter argument as to why a taxi should earn as much as they do is that they sit around not making any money for 10-60 minutes at a time. However, that goes away with driverless cars, and any excuse to charge exorbitant prices the way taxis do completely vanishes.

No, the $7hr was in reference to what you make as a service sector employee in Idaho or Montana.

The real question is why work for so little money? The federal minimum wage is $7.25, tipped employees can make less per hour but only if the tips exceed the minimum wage for that time, but that isn't the real wage floor consider Walmart[0] has a minimum wage of $10.00 nationally and the average time between hire and promotion(with raise) is 3 months with an average fulltime compensation of $13.38 an hour. Construction labor, house cleaning, call centers and even dishwashing in non chain restaurants tends to pay similarly, I really don't know why anyone would make the minimum wage for any extended period of time, nor how employers offering it manage to find anyone given the competition.


Go to Idaho or Montana then, you'd be surprised what people will work for when there are no alternatives.

I think the issue is I and my peers never really received any education about how to make it in the world (outside of simply "go to college"). If you are working a minimum wage or low paying job you really have two jobs the second being constantly searching for and applying to better opportunities.

Also I suspect another issue is the cliffs for government benefits. If you work between 45 - 60 hours a week for $12 - $13 an hour like I did a few years ago you aren't exactly well off yet programs like Obamacare will fine you for not buying health insurance that you can't really afford. Similarly free clinics will turn you away and I wasn't able to find a single aid program that you would qualify for except about $20 a month in food stamps. I figured out the costs once and there are a great many situations where a rational actor would simply work less or for less money and do better economically.

Yep, wages don't amount to everything. I don't know how Walmart is nowadays, but a few years ago I had a few friends working at one being stiffed an hour or two underneath the weekly "full time" amount so they didn't need to keep up with certain benefits. And making them work unpaid overtime and bullying them into not reporting it or clocking in.

People bring up legal recourse for these situations, but realistically, it's very scary when you're in that scenario and have to actually deal with getting underpaid or not getting paid for a while but having your dignity.

About the tipped wages mentioned a couple comments up, from my experience working delivery, that's a great way to get yourself fired. Because I guarantee you all the employees won't go in together on saying it, you're basically telling the management "I don't get tipped as much as everyone else" which is great grounds for poor performance, it's a catch-22.

See: http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/im...

IMO that's the strongest argument for replacing welfare programs by a negative income tax, or universal basic income.

Most people in welfare have to borrow money or work igaly true Too make ends meat from user5

They do, right? Needs to be depreciated.

I lived in Beijing for 9 years and never had to worry about a DUI since I didn't even own a car. Some bad nights (no taxis available) I walked home for an hour or so, no big deal.

Population densities in the US suck, and everything is oriented around personal cars. Totally different things.

Still no excuse.

People downvoting me obviously haven't had anyone close killed by a drunk driver. Disgusting. Simple solution if you can't get home without driving: don't drink.

Your comment just isn't very constructive. Everyone knows that driving drunk is moral reprehensible. That's not the point. I'm sorry for your loss but I could just as easily say something along the lines of "Driving in general is not an excuse. People downvoting me obviously haven't had anyone close killed by a distracted driver. Simple solution: don't be distracted and drive." You're not wrong, but as long as we continue to have an attitude of "drunk driving is just wrong so we shouldn't do anything because people who drive drunk are simply bad people" we will never create a proper solution and people will continue to die needlessly. It's not an excuse, but understanding people's impetuses (that are more common than you probably believe) will help us in creating solutions and getting rid of this problem once and for all.

The post I replied to sounded like it tried to justify it, like there was no other choice than to drive drunk. I also don't agree with you at all. You speak like it's some kind of technical problem that needs to be disrupted. If you drink and drive you're messed up and have big issues. Of course we should try to find ways to reduce it but you can never blame the system.

I'm not saying you don't have big issues if you drive drunk but that statement is obvious and does nothing to solve the problem. No one is going to start accepting drunk drivers as good people. But maybe we can understand why people drive drunk and can fix that underlying cause. After all, all I want is for fewer people to drive drunk.

What you mention are circumstances and excuses that doesn't change anything. The point of the parent post was that in some countries (mine is Norway) you just don't do it, full stop.

Very hypothetically, if someone else got you drunk in the middle of nowhere without your knowledge and there are no taxis available, and it's freezing outside so that you can't sleep under a bush, then not letting you stay the night at whatever house you were in would be similar to murder I guess. A drunk person driving is just off the table and everyone understands it.

>It has always amazed me how casually people drink and drive in some countries; the US especially springs to mind.

Drinking and driving is still very taboo in the US. It's just that most areas of the country require an automobile to get around and most people have a car.

One more thing, no one should be surprised that people drink and drive anywhere. People make all sorts of terrible decisions when they're intoxicated, they're drunk after all.

Not quite as taboo as many other countries [1], unfortunately.

You give two excuses to drink and drive. Both are indefensible.

The first excuse is "need a car to get around, have car". I live in a sparsely populated area as well, and everyone uses a car to get around. When we go out drinking, we plan ahead. The most common options are designated drivers, taxis, sleeping over, walking, or cycling.

The second excuse is "can't expect to make good decisions while drunk". That's a bit intellectually dishonest. The decision to think about how to get back later, knowing you're going to be drinking, is a bad decision made while entirely sober.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_in_the_United_St...

A lot of people simply don't care. They feel they can make it, they're skilled enough. It's actually similar to speeding, which incidentally is responsible for more traffic deaths and accidents - drivers don't give a fuck, they're smarter than the system.

The only way I know of actually beating some reason into people thinking like that is through heavy and sure penalties. Lots of alcohol spot-checks. Automatic ticketing for speeding measured via average, not instantaneous speed. DUI, you lose license. Speed, you're half-way to losing one.

Politically untenable perhaps, but I could see it making a dent in deaths on the roads.

Exactly, it's more socially acceptable in the USA.

Walking and cycling are going to get you killed at the same rate if not higher as driving. I guess you're not as likely to kill someone else.

I think that's also something that's different in the US: individualism.

I wouldn't normally call e.g. Germany a "collectivist" society but in comparison to the attitudes I frequently hear about from Americans (especially in politics) Germans apparently genuinely care more about their fellow citizens.

Not being as likely to kill someone else is the entire point. Heck, drunk cycling is only slightly better than drunk driving because you're less likely to run someone over (but might still cause an accident when a driver has to do something dangerous to avoid you).

>Heck, drunk cycling is only slightly better than drunk driving because you're less likely to run someone over (but might still cause an accident when a driver has to do something dangerous to avoid you).

Drunk cyclists killed 1 person between 2007-2011 in Poland. Drunk pedestrians killed 3 persons. http://ibikekrakow.com/2012/03/28/ile-osob-zabili-pijani-row...

Drunk drivers killed hundreds.

50% of people caught for DUI are riding bicycles. And until recently, they were getting exactly the same prison sentences as drunk truck drivers. Almost half of people imprisoned for DUI were riding bicycles.

I think drunk cycling is completely harmless, and should be legal. If someone is too drunk, he can't keep balance on bicycle anymore and problem automatically fixes itself.

There is a lot of moral panic about drunk driving, but at BAC under 0.5 permille (vast majority of people caught) it's completely harmless or even safer than riding sober. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c0/WHO_BAC_... Only truly drunk people in cars should be punished.

It's not about being able to balance on a bike, it's about reaction time, coordination, and judgement.

In some way it's self-correcting, drunk cyclist can't ride fast. If he's super drunk, he becomes more of a pedestrian than cyclist. I agree it's not the best argument.

I like numbers, and numbers say drunk bicyclists are not a problem.

Drunk cyclist is hundreds times less danger than drunk driver, and should get hundreds times less punishment.

I'm not saying necessarily that this is due to a lack of care about fellow citizens, but the closest i've come to being hit as a pedestrian was in germany. single lane windy road in the heart of town, porsche flying by at 60+kmph.

I get that different cultures have different jay-walking habbits, even within the US cities are vastly different, but if i really cared about well-being of others i wouldn't drive like that in a city. I think the theory in other comments that drunk driving is seen culturally as immature and stupid is a better explanation.

> different in the US: individualism

It's funny, but in the US it's common for college freshmen to have two choices of lodging: either in a fraternity (Animal House, the movie ;-) or in a dorm room, two people per room (hence the 'Roommate from Hell' stories that grace the internet).

Not big on leaving individuals alone.

Just because you share a room with someone doesn't mean you do the same social activities as them. First roommate in college we kinda did, second roommate we barely did anything together other than be present in the same room (there was a point where we were playing Tony Hawk together regularly).

Yup. I think that as a culture, we need to think more about the risks we take with other people's lives.

I think this is best demonstrated by the minimum liability insurance required to operate a car. In California, right now, you can drive a car with only $35K in liability insurance... which is crazy. Sure, that will cover most cars, but it won't even cover a moderate injury. Very few people have the assets required to pay for a serious injury, and therefore, the victim is usually under-compensated.

Right now, cars are essentially being subsidized by the people who are getting hurt who get under compensated, because few people have enough liability insurance (or assets) to cover the cost of really hurting someone. If the injuries per mile were better factored into the cost of driving (which could be done by increasing the liability insurance minimum) driving would be a lot more expensive; quite possibly, once you factor in injuries, other, safer forms of transport would start looking practical.

> In California, right now, you can drive a car with only $35K in liability insurance... which is crazy. Sure, that will cover most cars, but it won't even cover a moderate injury. Very few people have the assets required to pay for a serious injury, and therefore, the victim is usually under-compensated.

In Germany, there are regulations for this. The mandatory insurance has a minimum coverage of 7.5M € for injuries, 1.12M € for property damages and 50 k€ for other accident related costs. And yet our car insurances are affordable AND the insurers make really nice profits.

The minimum insurance won't cover that much vehicle damage, it's mostly bodily injury coverage ($5000 property).

You guess? That is the whole thing with drunk driving. You endanger others. With a conscious choice I might add, when you go somewhere and drunk driving is the only way home.

You're being downvoted, but you make a good point. Here's some more commentary in support of your statement.


It's a damn shame the US has decided to build streets that are safer to drive on drunk than walk on.

Cycling while intoxicated can also get you a DUI, though in practice it's probably rare.

Even walking can be risky. If you are seen falling down or even staggering a bit you can get a public intoxication charge.

The point of DUI being illegal isn't to protect drunk drivers; it's to protect everybody else (and everything) nearby.

Cycling while drunk is illegal in some places.

How is it a taboo? I notice that in almost every US TV show I watch, people drink and drive. Or drink and if you think, you know there is no other way for them to get home except in the car they arrived in. It's very visible once you notice it once.

>How is it a taboo? I notice that in almost every US TV show I watch, people drink and drive.

It's also quite common to see fictional murders on television but that doesn't make it any less taboo.

  > no one should be surprised that people drink and drive anywhere.
  > People make all sorts of terrible decisions when they're intoxicated
Many people make a Ulysses pact: if they're going out drinking, they make the decision whilst sober to leave the car at home, removing any temptation to use it to get home later when they're drunk.

>Ulysses pact

I knew a guy in college who often got totally hammered when he went out. He would always give his bus money home to one of his companions he was out with to hold onto so that he wouldn't accidentally spend it or lose it.

> is still very taboo in the US

Depends on where you are. In rural America it's borderline socially acceptable (unfortunately).

In many places in rural America, it's borderline socially acceptable to drive while drinking. See "Road sodas"...

Yep, this happens all the time. I think it's even legal in some states, as long as you are not over the BAC limit.

It isn't taboo in the US. Though, less socially acceptable than it used to be.

It depends on the social circle you are in though if you know very frequently drunk drivers vs responsible drivers. Most people I met in adulthood don't think twice drinking and driving but most people I meet in childhood will tend to discourage it. I don't really know why other than maybe different peer influence? When people see me call a cab they openly say "I just drive home drunk." Like it's nothing. Similarly I've had cab drivers commend me for not driving drunk. "Oh, you called a cab, that's good most people would just drive drunk."

I have co-workers who spend most Friday afternoons (12-5) at the bar and drive right home after like it's nothing. These people don't think driving drunk is a problem.

Personally, I can't understand why you'd go out and drink if you had no way to get home. It doesn't come unexpectedly out of nowhere. If there's no transportation you are still making a choice in the matter. I don't buy excuses, when you choose to go out and choose to start drinking while you are out without a designated driver you are making both choices and making them sober. If it was that taboo, people simply would either stay home or have a designated driver. It's really not that difficult. In fact, I know people who will all meet at the bar and instead of car pooling with a rotating DD they will just all travel in their own cars independently and all drive home drunk.

I know many people who wouldn't consider themselves "drunk drivers" because they have a high tolerance for alcohol and are still fine after 3 drinks. I think this is probably true for a lot of people, especially in rural areas.

I think it's not taboo, the (social, not legal) definition is just a different one. In most countries, having more than one beer and driving is considered drunk driving. In the US, as long as you're not wasted people assume it's ok to drive home (there's no alternative anyway).

Having 4-5 beer over a few hours and driving home is completely normal in most parts of the US. In most European countries, that's socially unacceptable.

Went to school in a college town in the US. I always based it on how much alcohol your body should can process, roughly a beer an hour. So if I started drinking at a party four hours ago and had five beers, I figured I was sober enough to go home.

I usually did most of my drinking at the beginning of the night anyway (intentionally so this would be a viable strategy), so I was mostly sobering up at the end.

But there were still plenty of nights where I slept on the host's couch or floor until morning, and a few times where I made poor decisions because I really, really didn't want to have to find other transportation (mostly just getting in the car with people who I couldn't determine if they were sober enough to drive). Taxis really are awful in small towns.

I don't drive drunk, it's not worth the risk; BUT millions of people drive drunk every day and 99.999% get home safely so in their minds it seems safe enough.

It's not as if the instant your BAC goes over .08 you are driving like bumper cars.

I disagree with that number. You're saying that 1 in 100,000 people don't get home safely while drink driving.

That's 10 times lower than the yearly death rate from simply driving. And 1/3 road deaths are caused by drink driving.

My number is wrong, I just made it up. I think that actually number is more like 99.95% for a person with a .08.

My point is that if you didn't care about moral hazard, the odds are overwhelming that you will make it home safe even if you drive drunk.

I'm not condoning, just explaining drunk driving logic.

That 1/3 road deaths is artificially inflated because if you had 1 drink and well under the legal limit it still counts as alcohol related fatality.

> That 1/3 road deaths is artificially inflated because if you had 1 drink and well under the legal limit it still counts as alcohol related fatality.

As it should. 1 drink is enough to impair your ability to drive.

EDIT: I'm probably wrong, someone else in the comments posted data showing risk only increases after .03 BAC.

> I think that actually number is more like 99.95% for a person with a .08.

But it isn't the .08 drunk drivers killing people, it is the .16+ BAC drunk drivers killing people.

I find the fact that people believe this to be really quite frightening.

Sure, you feel great after a few drinks, that is kinda the point. But you are still impaired. Driving is not an activity where confidence helps. Reaction time matters and that goes down from your first drink.

I don't see how that is artificial. It is well known that your abilities are impacted long before you reach the legal limit.

I live in Bavaria. Everyone drives over the limit if home is not too far away. Noone ever gets caught. I on the other hand have lost my license for smoking weed 2 days earlier. Sigh..

Is it common to smoke in public places?

No. You go to jail. Drinking in public places is however legal and appreciated.

Just south of the US border, drinking and driving is the norm. Edit: Whoops, guess I hit a nerve with an uncomfortable truth. The lax enforcement in mexico, is just something industrialized people rarely think about...until you get there. But hey, argue about it on the internet and tell that to the drive-up neighborhood beer and fish taco stands from ensenada to tiajuana. I never go farther south, but I'm sure it's the same.

North of the border as well. Spend a Friday evening at the West Coast around LA, very few people driving home from bars or restaurants will be sober.

How is it even possible to drive on the roads during weekends? I imagine if there's lax enforcement, there will be a LOT more drunk driving related accidents??

erm, i've lived in the US for a few years and mexico about double that, and can say in Mexico it's similar to New Zealand, UK, etc where it's not really acceptable.

But yea the border towns are probably like the worst parts of the US, which is the worst country I've come across when it comes to drunk driving.

The [rural] US is much, much more spread out than most countries. This means that people in the rural US think of driving as a necessary and basic component of life; driving is just "how you get places", if there are places you need to get. So drinking and driving, though shameful, is necessarily normalized (not wholly, but somewhat) by people who are drunk, and yet need to go places.

That, and by the fact that in a lot of the very rural areas, drunk driving has a rather low fatality rate, given that there are no other cars on the road and no obstacles to crash into. If you run off the road, you just drive into some corn or wheat or alfalfa, or at worst hit somebody's cows. (These are the same places you'll see people e.g. allowing their young children to drive trucks or motorcycles—even by themselves, at night. There's just nothing much that can go wrong.)

(I think this is all also true of rural Russia, which is a large part of where the American stereotype of Russians as constantly drinking comes from.)

Exactly this, but it should be made clear that this has nothing to do with the general safety of rural roads. In general there are dangers encountered when driving (especially at night) on rural roads which aren't encountered in urban environments, although the converse is also true.

People always compare the US to Western Europe when this topic comes up, but that's simply an invalid comparison. For this topic, the US should be compared to Russia or possibly Canada. These countries have rural areas which are neither completely deserted (where drunk driving would be irrelevant even if it were likely to happen) nor support a large enough population to have reasonable transportation alternatives.

I wish the US would recognize this fact and have two sets of drunk driving laws - one for urban areas (matching Western European conventions) and one for rural (matching current conventions). Unfortunately, this is probably impossible since it could be seen as permitting drunk driving.

It's a common misconception that rural roads are safer than urban, but it's just not true. The fatality rate is higher on rural roads (both in total and per mile driven) and rural roads are massively over represented in road accident stats for the percentage of the population that lives in them. Shitty google AMP link to a pdf: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https:/...

> It has always amazed me how casually people drink and drive in some countries; the US especially springs to mind.

You should see Thailand. Many districts in Bangkok have their own dedicated pool of motorbike-taxis often located at specific points. The group of them outside my previous apartment frequently shared whiskey or beer with me after dropping me off.

Our Uber driver in Tennessee came into the bar with us and had a few beers.

It's extremely shameful, and embarrassing here. No one looks up to you for that shit. Unfortunately we don't make it very easy for drunks to get home, so they do stupid things.

If you drive to a place you know you'll be drinking at, you're doing stupid things while sober.

Where do you live? It's "shameful" in the US to, but it still happens.

New York

Yeah, In my younger days I'd walk home 5 miles every Saturday from my local club, usually about 1.5-2 hours depending just how drunk I was. No one even thought of driving drunk, it's just something that you don't do.

I know of someone who got ticketed driving drunk and had their license suspended. They acted like they were the _victim_. I'm sorry, but there is just no excuse for driving drunk and if you get caught you deserve worse than just loosing your license.

> Over here

We don't know where you are, you need to tell us where "here" is.

It may be wrong to drink and drive, but it happens pretty regularly (especially the "I've only had one beer" variety). From a policy (not a moral) perspective though, encouraging ride-sharing makes total sense here. It's a bit like teaching kids about birth control vs. abstinence. I don't condone minors having sex but a lot of them are going to regardless of what I think, so might as well make sure they're protected.

Up until very recently it was still legal to drink WHILE driving in Montana: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700061870/No-more-Montana...

I was recently in Madagascar - it's not uncommon to be driving while sipping a beer, or driving home at 3am after drinking since 9pm. I theorize that they must just sweat it all out. Eating while drinking helps, too.

As other people have pointed out, it's largely a byproduct of our development patterns, and it's also somewhat regional. Where I grew up, it was pretty common for people have driven drunk before they ever reached drinking age.

I've noticed how taboo it is differs dramatically by city. In the South with is sprawling roads and lack public transportation its more acceptable but in large cities in the North it's much more taboo.

> Over here, drinking and driving is an extremely shameful and embarrassing thing to do.

Over here (Hungary), drinking and driving is basically illegal. As in 0mg, zip. It makes things a lot simpler IMO.

What country are you in? I'd wager a bet that many people still do it, just like many people in your country probably hit their children.

You should see British Virgin Islands.

Where are you from?

An interesting analogy because a lot of people in the USA also think it's good to hit (spank) children.

>Other than not going out, or not getting home, you didn't have many options.

I don't understand. Of course you do! Just go out and don't drink...!

When I grew up we would just take turns. A car seats 5, so you would be the driver every 5 times. That's not too bad...

You could still have a beer or two, or just have a sober evening and the next day without a hang-over.

Also, everyone knew the formula by which blood alcohol gets reduced over time, and how much alcohol would be in a glass of beer. At one rare event when I knew I would have pretty much maxed out my quota I once got in a police control and got tested at night. It was very accurate... I missed the limit by 0.02 per mill. I played a bit safer from then on, though. The limit in our area is at 0.5 per mill, but if you had an accident with over 0.2 you might already get in trouble with insurance coverage. Apart from the fact that of course the risk of having an accident goes up and can destroy lives.

I envy you for not being able to count your friends on a single hand.

And that as a grown adult his/her friends all live in the same general area so that one person can drop everyone off. That'd be absolutely ludicrous here in Austin. Everyone lives in the opposite 30 minute direction. I don't even ask where people live anymore because there's almost no chance they live within 30 minutes (10 miles) of me and I'm central so I'll probably never visit them.

The nights I can plan for a sober driver vs using a TNC are few and far between and usually on the weekend when one of my friends husbands or wives doesn't mind being the DD. This doesn't help during happy hour, etc at all.

Uber/Lyft/TNCs made going out far less anxiety ridden ("will I even be able to get a cab? When do the buses stop?")

It's not he accessibility of ride-sharing services that is doing this, it is the ride-sharing services policy of artificially low pricing to facilitate rapid growth that is responsible. Those $9 rides are not sustainable. When the prices go back up to sustainable levels we will see many of these benefits evaporate.

And like you know, all the other things he listed:

> it's easy to call one from a crowded/loud place, you know how much it will cost, they don't use cash, they know where you are, and you don't have to give directions.

p.s., why do people like you want to hate on ride sharing services so much? Is it just that nothing can ever be good enough in your mind?

I upvoted you, but I think this needs reinforcement. These are very valuable considerations when getting a ride home after drinking.

In my personal experience, you call a cab, and they may not even come. There's no repercussion for that with traditional taxi services.

Uber may be subsidizing pricing now, but there is still a higher price point that provides additional value, particularly for those drinking.

Reliability, convenience, and accountability -- these are the keys.

Don't forget about the cost estimates.

Even if ridesharing services were the same price as a taxi, knowing roughly how much it will cost before I even call the thing is a huge plus, and knowing the route they will take me on is even better.

I don't need to be constantly on the lookout to make sure my uber driver isn't trying to fuck me by running the meter going the wrong direction giving me some bullshit about how his way is faster and then when we get there the credit card machine is broken and the fare is 3x what you expected (which is already 2x what it was in your home area).

With uber, if someone pulls that I know I can get a refund with a pretty good chance in success. I haven't ever had a taxi company call me back about anything, half the time the fucking taxi doesn't even show up.

All of these things are also huge for people who are disabled (deaf, mute, etc) and for people who are in foreign countries, and all sorts of other situations that most of us might not typically think of.

It's not even just that. I'm not sure about everywhere in the country but in parts of Texas good luck depending on a cab to show up within even an hour+ time frame you called in for it to. Everyone here has cars so there are very few cabs and the service is poor because of it.

I went to college in San Antonio and Uber was banned for about a semester or so after it became the norm. Too many people started drunk driving again. For all intents and purposes, you either found a designated driver or didn't go out. Many choose the illegal third option.

No matter what the price, the fact that you CAN get a timely ride via ride sharing apps is a game changer here.

> And like you know, all the other things he listed: >> it's easy to call one from a crowded/loud place, you know how much it will cost, they don't use cash, they know where you are, and you don't have to give directions.

Subjective advantages which are not exclusive nor intrinsic to ride sharing services. They can be replicated by anyone in the industry if they are deemed as valuable to their business. I never denied they don't add value (for some), I'm saying that it is the hugely undercut pricing that is primarily driving this trend.

> p.s., why do people like you want to hate on ride sharing services so much? Is it just that nothing can ever be good enough in your mind?

Wow, generalize much? Who is "people like you" exactly? The answer to you question is pretty obvious if you put the snark aside: My problem is with the predatory pricing that companies like Uber are using. when I said their pricing is not sustainable that is exactly what I meant. In 5 years they will either be gone or will have raised their prices.

Even at the prices charged by traditional taxi companies, the service and convenience provided by Uber or Lyft is such an order of magnitude better that they should be viable competition.

You know, we have a few confounding variables and a clear effect. Where does your certainty that it's price, and not another variable that it comes from?

(Yes, I acknowledge you have a problem with the predatory pricing. I understand you. Was it not against taxis, I'd have a problem too, it's just that I hate taxis more than I hate powerful companies messing with small people. Yet, that does not make it any clear that the change is mostly due to prices.)

> p.s., why do people like you want to hate on ride sharing services so much? Is it just that nothing can ever be good enough in your mind?

What a strange way to respond to valid criticism. Flip this: why do people like you refuse to see these issues? No one is saying that the Uber experience, app, upfront pricing, etc. is the issue. I think everyone is positive to those innovations in the market.

It is not the cost of the ride, it is the fact that an Uber driver will actually show up. In many cities if you call a taxi company at 2am, no one will answer.

I've booked cabs before going out (UK) and had the agree to meeting me at 2/3am at a specific locstion, and they just don't show sometimes.

I've had one no show über driver, and when he didn't show another showed up in his place.

It's still safer and cheaper than a DUI* or worse. For many people, as long as it is convenient, those benefits are enough

Uber hopes to keep fares at their current level by replacing human drivers with autonomous vehicles.

During my first visit to the USA, back in 2007, I was shocked at casual drinking and driving habits of my co-workers. They were fine with having 5-6 bottles of beer and a couple of shots and then drop me in the hotel before driving home. Fortunately they don't have to do that anymore.

I think this might be related to another complaint you often hear about: the drinking culture in general.

Where I live in Europe it's normal to have designated drivers at parties and it's socially unacceptable to pressure them into drinking. If someone offers you a drink, "I'm driving" is a no-questions-asked way to turn it down (same goes for "I'm pregnant" or "I'm a recovering alcoholic").

That doesn't seem to be the case in much of the US. But it's one of those things that are hard to judge from across the pond.

This may have to do with the troubled history of alcohol in the US. You've had the temperance movement which lead to Prohibition, which was too extreme. After its repeal, the temperance movement faded somewhat, until automobiles became more common and you have MADD pressuring states to raise the drinking age to 21, which is now effective in all the states. That has inadvertently contributed to an extremely unhealthy culture of binge drinking on college campuses all across the US. That early experience with binge drinking may partially explain the lack of healthy drinking culture in the US.

However, anecdotally "I'm driving" is now pretty much the best reason to give and not to be pressured into drinking. But that's just been my personal experience.

It really depends on the circle of people that are at parties in the US. I've been the DD and have been at parties where there is at least one DD. I think there was a general consensus not to bother or pressure the guy DDing. All the fraternities and sororities would have a DD system running on fridays and saturday nights for their members as well, this is typical for a lot of universities but it only covers those members and their friends. I've also been at parties where I know there was no one DDing and I knew pretty much everyone drove there and didn't spend the night. Thankfully I lived in the college town with a decent bus system that got us around to most of the area for free so even if I couldn't get a ride, I could use the bus. I also purposely moved downtown just to have a ability to get almost anywhere without a car. The bus system was nice but getting between certain areas of town was hard depending on where you lived.

I've also seen how businesses do not like it if there's a person at a table ordering nothing while their buddies booze it up at high margins. That person gets treated poorly by waitstaff for not making any money or tips, even though their buddies wouldn't be able to drink nearly so much otherwise.

Your judgement matches my experience. I lived in the US then moved to Northern Europe.

"I'm on antibiotics" is another excuse.

I rarely drive, but a lot of my colleagues did exactly what you describe. It's most definitely unsettling, and thankfully that's one particular behavior I've barely seen since the ride sharing services came on the scene.

Actually one of the things that's most interesting about this study is that it's a study of NYC - where access to public transport might be the best in the United States.

Purely supposition on my part but my guess is that the market ride sharing services are capturing are suburbanites who are actually paying $50 to go to NJ/LI/CT as opposed to driving - as it's hard to imagine many locals driving anywhere, let alone drunk driving. The staten island graph is curious though (does it mean there is no non-locals visiting?

> NYC - where access to public transport might be the best in the United States

Same with access to taxis… being able to just walk outside and find one vs in many other cities having to call one (and have their phone number already) and wait.

This may not be the case for most people, but an hour walk after heavy drinking with music in my ears and nothing but empty road and darkness is something I really miss because of uber.

Also if you go out as a couple, its very boring if both can't have a glass of wine..

I'm thinking of selling my car just because of how well Uber works, and how expensive having a second car is (in Brazil at least).

I completely agree. I wonder how self driving cars (i.e. no driver to watch you) are going to change that. The consensus is that we will be using shared cars as opposed to owning your own car. But if the tube in London gives us any indication, when you order a self driving car in London on a Saturday night, you are likely to find it covered with vomit and other bodily fluids. I do believe that owning a self driving car will still be a thing. (and for another reason: everyone will need it at the same time).

It's a lot easier to pull a self-driving car out of service for cleaning than a six-carriage train. It's not unreasonable to expect that some combination of machine vision, Mechanical Turk and hands-on inspection will be able to detect a car with a soiled interior before it gets dispatched to another customer.

I imagine there will be plenty of teething problems and horror stories, but I don't think it's an insoluble problem.

I think you might have a wrong impression of the tube. I use it quite often but cannot remember when I last saw vomit on a train. If at all rather on the platform as many people try to get off if they feel very sick but don't make it to the exit of the station. There are certainly many drunk people but also a fair share of people going from/to work late at night.

People that drive drunk should be charged with attempted homicide because apparently the current penalties are not enough. Drunk drivers are just as deadly as your average mass shooting. Ram head first into a van and kill a family of 5 in one swoop. Nobody talks about it. The president doesn't address the nation if drunk drivers kill too many people in one year. Nobody seems to care. It's just "the price to be paid" for legal booze.

Pretty irresponsible of someone to drive drunk to save $20-30. I could never imagine doing that over the options (riding a bike, ignore going to the bar in the first place etc).

The real problem is not that $20 (or whatever) is too much to spend on a taxi, but there are no taxis at all.

Disclaimer: This isn't an excuse for drink-driving, you should think about this before you go out, but clearly there are a lot of people who either don't think about it or can't help themselves.

In my college town, before Uber, you had three choices getting home:

- Taking the bus which didn't run anytime after 10pm - Calling a friend which really only worked when you planned ahead - Calling the local taxi service which was limited and was pretty expensive unless you had a ton of people riding with you. They did "drunk bus" kind of rides mostly.

Planning transportation (DD, drunk bus, etc) was really the only way to get home unless you just walked everywhere. The fraternities and sororities ran DD systems for their members and friends which I admired but couldn't take advantage of. After Uber came out, use exploded and the DUIs started going down.

And no public transport. The real difference to Europe is not the lack of taxis (you often don't get one in Europe at night when everyone leaves the bar), it's that you don't have acceptable and safe public transport (night buses) as an alternative.

in some place drunk riding a bike might have similar repercussions [incl. criminal charges above certain levels].

In Poland riding a bike while drunk results in losing your driving licence.

Same in Sweden. It's not so much riding the bike though - you can actually lose it by just being drunk walking too.

Wait, how can that be true? I worked in Gothenburg for several months a few years back, and there is a strong drinking culture. My poor language skills and memory may have me wrong, but all pubs advertise 'stor stark' happy hour, which means the beers are big and strong. If drunk walking can get your license revoked, how are there so many cars on the road?

You aren't going to get your license revoked because you are drunk, even very drunk.

But if you are the kind of person the police takes care of on a bench multiple times then it's within their (or rather the relevant authority, not the police) power to consider a person "unfit" for having a drivers license. Won't happen to "normal" people, even if on a bike.

And if you don't have a driver's licence?

See, this is where the intention of the law sort of falls apart - because in that case, you are only given a fine. So the punishment is disproportional towards people who have a driving licence. People who don't have one are punished a lot less for the exact same offence.

This reminds me of the old joke about the preacher. He is giving it the full fire and brimstone treatment, shouting that in hell there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth at the eternal punishment. One cheeky young lad asks, "But what if you have no teeth?" The preacher roars back "Teeth will be PROVIDED!"

I think you already know this but: laws, like life, are unfair (well, Judicial Laws. Only the laws of nature are truly impartial).

Only if you're caught driving it on the road.

It's harder to kill someone on a bike tho.

Directly? Yes. Indirectly? No.

You're still posing a traffic hazard.

I'd say the risk of killing someone or causing an incident is much lower when riding drunk on a bike than in a car. To cause a major accident while drunk on a bike (that doesn't only involve yourself) you need an unfortunate chain of events such as a car avoiding you and running into someone else.

For starters, I can usually go most places by bike without doing it on the same roads as cars. (I know that's rarely the case in the US though). If that's not possible, and you are so drunk you can't ride a bike (I can certainly ride a bike safer than a car while drunk simply because the speed is much slower so the reaction times are longer) - then leave the bike too. Walk or get a cab.

College years have provided me with both first and second person anecdotal evidence that cycling can have a higher incapability threshold than walking. That's for the motor control parts at least.

Situational awareness is an entirely different story though. In the dead of night traffic is on easy mode, where you notice the indirect illumination of a car's headlights around two corners and hear them from a mile away. That's just not very challenging (and probably plays a large role in the seemingly universal pattern of more drunk driving in rural areas, unfortunately cars come with an incredible amount of risk compensation through speed). Broad daylight city cycling on the other hand I consider a bad idea even at BAC levels well within the legal limits for driving cars (speaking of Germany here, where in terms of fines, cycling is tolerated at twice the BAC level as driving, a reasonable compromise)

I guess if you're drunk driving at ~10mph the reduced reaction time isn't as important as when you're doing forty.

Except when you're driving at night without lights and are too buzzed to pay attention to traffic.

Road traffic relies on cooperation between the participants. If you can't pull your own weight (i.e. follow traffic laws, control your vehicle, etc), you don't belong on the road.

Also it's not about yourself. Sure, if you kill yourself in an accident on a bicycle you're less likely to injure somebody else but you're still inflicting all kinds of harm on others.

besides yourself running into cars, that try to avoid you... and run into someone else...

A ten to fifteen minute walk is less than a mile, unless heavy drinking somehow speeds one up. Where does that distance cost $20 in a cab? The NYC taxi & limousine website shows one mile in Manhattan as costing about $6.30--$5 for the fare, .80 for MTA and improvement surcharges, .50 for night surcharge.

Edit: My mistake, misread the text.

NYC actually has far cheaper cabs than most US cities (who don't have Uber) because the market is extremely different. High demand and high supply 24/7 as opposed to surges. The pricing is also more tightly regulated iirc (haven't looked into the specifics).

When I took the train up to Albany, I wanted a cab to a coffee shop across the bridge. It was a half hour walk vs a 7min car ride. The cab was flat rate into the city so it would have cost $20+ just to take me across the bridge. This would've been a sub-$10 ride in NYC. I walked it, despite the rain.

I just saw a stat yesterday that NYC taxi medallions reached their lowest value with a total of 13.6k medallions in existence; compare with 50k Uber/Lyft drivers.

It's probably not just the cost but finding a cab at all. You have to call them and will likely go home when everyone leaves. Without surge pricing, there's no fluctuation in supply so that you don't get a cab.

That's my experience at least. It's also cheaper in the end but with an uber you know pretty well when you'll be in the car.

It was a 10-15 min drive, or one hour walking. Which sounds about right (maybe a little less than $20.)

I remember in South Africa talking to a gentleman who was obviously quite inebriated about how he was going to get home. His response "I just put my head down, press the accelerator and get home as quickly as possible." I was horrified!

Let's file this one under "duh"

It's not ride-hailing apps themselves. Has nothing to do with the fact that it's someone else's car or that you use an app instead of a phone number to order it.

It's the fact that you can get home now for $10 only waiting 5 minutes from the time you decided you want to leave.... compared to paying $60 and waiting an hour.

I disagree, Uber for all its obvious faults has a top notch UX, I don't need to find cash, I barely need to break off conversation with my friend let alone speak to a person on the phone who will inevitably be confused about where I am. All that stuff drives adoption and retention.

I think it has a lot to do with the app. It's more about getting out than getting home. Sure, taxis are usually available if you're out in a town, but anyone who's ever tried to call one to pick them up from home on short notice is often going to be annoyed with the quality of dispatcher service. Even if the dispatcher is great and the taxi arrives quickly, anyone who has had a bad experience before will be anxious given the lack of reliable information. The ETA with a map is a huge factor in improving the experience.

I also wouldn't overlook the novelty factor in the idea gaining traction. It took a mundane process (calling a dispatcher) and made it sleek, hip, and fun. Especially in the early days, when you'd meet a lot of diverse drivers, not just professionals. This made a huge difference in making Uber a 'thing', not just a marginally improved commodity service.

Even if it's something we already knew, it's nice to see data confirming.

Or conversely, the taxi medallion system is likely responsible for 24-35% of drunk driving incidents...

In Vancouver,

If going out downtown, it's a 80$ cab ride each way atleast.

Transit would take atleast an hour but good luck taking it back at 2am when service is very limited.

I could drive after drinking and spend 30-40 minutes.

There is no ride sharing allowed here yet.

I usually don't go out if I don't have a designated driver as it's just not affordable or takes too long.

Many friends, and I admit myself when younger, would have just drove home drunk as it was cheapest quickest option

We have actually found it cheaper to drive downtown, find a cheap decent hotel on priceline and drive back home after a good sleep.

I can't wait for ride sharing here, I use it everywhere else when traveling.

Ride sharing makes it affordable convenient and quick... Can definately see how it attributes to less drunk drivers.

Without great public transportation, it seems rather unlikely for suburban folks to enjoy a lifestyle where you can drink downtown and safely get back home at a decent rate. Ridesharing might be cheaper for now, but I'm not sure what it will be like when the prices truly represent the market value; currently, most ridesharing companies seem to be operating at loss. The ultimate solution might come when autonomous driving becomes possible, I really can't see it another way.

BTW even with public transportation, if you're drunk enough to think it unsafe to drive, you're probably gonna want to use the restroom more often.

I've gone over this issue a LOT, and right now I'm planning to move to the city center and just take the hit of higher rent for now. Luckily, I am single so this is a lot more convenient than if you have a family with kids and stuff.

I wish the US and Canada would relax zoning restrictions. I've spent the last decade or so in Japan and the UK and it's just so much better. Admittedly, when you are young and going out clubbing then you want access to the big city. But for quieter/older people, just having access to a decent restaurant or pub within walking distance of your house is amazing. These days my wife and I might go out to the big city maybe once a month or two, but at that frequency booking a hotel is feasible. Every other time we go out we stay in our neighbourhood because there are really great places to go -- even though I live in a tiny town. In Canada, you really do need to live downtown if you want any kind of social life outside of your house.

The zoning restrictions are one of the most startling things to be about the US. Especially since the US is in general very pro market but in this case is incredibly anti market.

The major my suburb recently sent out a survey asking people what kind of building projects people would like to see. The granularity of what was being asked for was shocking. It should not be the government's task to decide if we need to build single family homes or multi family homes and if they are allowed to be town houses etc. I felt like I was in the Soviet Union.

I don't see zoning as black-and-white as you do. We have pretty strict zoning requirements in most of Germany too... with some exceptions of course, and you can immediately see that the quality of life in lesser regulated areas goes downhill.

The point is that you have to apply common sense to zoning, which given the countless comments about US zoning seems to be the difference.

I would like to see more of this in the US.

Common sense (zoning, and other things):

Japanese Zoning :: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8540845


Cities could easily dezone. Most areas have only had zoning for 60 to 80 years, prior to that there was just fire & building code constraining you. What was added by zoning was height restrictions, parking minimums, building type eg. single family detached, and lot/building size minimums.

The value that zoning provides is to segregate and disenfranchise the bulk of the populace, while spreading them out during the Cold War so as to make the US more resilient towards bombings supposedly. This is the same culture that thought sidewalks were bad.

I dunno- Houston is notorious for its lack of zoning, yet it still grew the same sprawling manner. The fact is most of our cities did most of their growth after WWII. A baby boom, affordable automobiles, the interstate highway system, advertising, and FHA subsidies made mass suburban developments like Levittown profitable and desirable.

Houston pretty much has zoning they just don't call it zoning.


>Matthew Festa [is] a land use professor in Houston...

>For all that’s been made of Houston’s infamous lack of zoning, Festa said it increasingly seems that reputation isn’t deserved or even accurate.

>“We do have a lot of land-use regulations,” Festa said. “We still have a lot of stuff that looks and smells like zoning.”

>To be more precise, Houston doesn’t exactly have official zoning. But it has what Festa calls “de facto zoning,” which closely resembles the real thing. “We’ve got a lot of regulations that in other cities would be in the zoning code,” Festa said. “When we use it here, we just don’t use the ‘z’ word.”

Got a source for the Cold War stuff?

One nice thing about ride sharing is that it can make a somewhat sparse public transit great. I frequently will take a Lyft to a nearby train stop and then go downtown from there. The entire thing still takes ~20m to get downtown. It's a third to a quarter of the price of taking Lyft all the way

When new cheaper thing comes to the market, I have heard a lot of sayings along the lines you're saying - they only doing it for now and after they have established themselves they'll jack up the prices. I can't remember any case when it actually happened. I don't mean things like "introductory pricing" when you get short time cheap and then the price rises - you know the deal upfront there. I mean some service company - not protected by some monopoly enforcement from state - jacking up the prices after they decided they have enough market share. Has it happened?

It won't be an explicit money grab. Once they have pushed out other competitors, they will IPO. Then, they will come under pressure from Wall Street to turn a profit (eventually...unless they do a la Amazon and keep creating/expanding into new markets). Then all Uber customers/drivers will see an email like: Dear Customers, Thanks for being a great part of our "community". Due to rising costs/regulations/some_generic_reason, we have to regretfully increase prices by $X.

That's what I am asking - the only companies I see such scenario playing out are in deeply monopolized and regulated industries (healthcare, ISPs, cable TV providers). I'm not saying Uber won't ever raise the prices ever, but I am yet to see a plan like this - capture the market, then drive up prices - actually happen and be sustainable. Amazon is surely not an example of it, even though it did capture the market, no sign of dramatic price increase.

It's one thing to increase your profit margin after becoming established, it's another thing if you aren't able to even have a profit margin at current pricing.

I agree Vancouver needs ride sharing! Although when I was there it didn't seem any more expensive for cabs than Seattle. From the downtown Hyatt to Kingsway & Commercial Dr was about $20 CAD. How far out do you live?

The problem with cabs is that the drivers aren't sure if they will get another ride, so they are less likely to service more remote areas.

Wasn't there an article here a few days ago that said Uber drivers were doing exactly the same thing?

Uber drivers don't get a choice. Some do and try and skirt that system, but it's more obvious and they get in more trouble.

I take a short fare from my work to the train station near daily. If I am contacted by my driver, I never tell them where I am going. I have had MANY drivers, both Uber and Lyft, cancel because it was a sub-$10 fare. This is in Fort Lauderdale, so it isn't like its out in the boonies.

That being said, I might have waited longer, but I always got service when I did live in rural Broward. I was 20+ minutes from everything though, so it was a guaranteed high fare ride for the driver.

Wow, this was treated pretty well wrt stats, almost like a clinical trial. The article makes it sound like just an anecdote.

Applied microeconomics is full of these sort of studies. It thrives on finding "natural experiments" to exploit and identify/measure an effect.

Nice to see such a great paper from a fellow CUNY grad. NY's city college system is underrated.

I mean CUNY is objectively a great school. It's just overshadowed by NYU

Isn't the SUNY system generally better regarded as well? New York does a pretty good job overall with affordable public universities.

Another study from July 2016 said that Uber doesn't save many drunk driving accidents although the study referenced in the Economist only focused on NYC, whereas the study from 2016 was focused on multiple metropolitan areas.

[1]: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/07/22/aje.k...

I think he's overfitting. Also the way he controls for Lyft seems poor, I think, because if both services led to a reduction them controlling for Lyft would reduce Uber's contribution it seems (that is while Uber's effect might be small as well as Lyfts, together they would be larger). He really should be asking "Do ride sharing services reduce drunk driving fatalities?" Not Uber specific.

Also his variable for Uber is only a one or zero. It should instead be the number of drivers in the county.

They quotes a study done on only California that shows Uber reduces fatalities, but doesn't ask himself if maybe county by county is important. Instead he groups everything together, even some countries that have very few.

Here's the sentence that should indicate something is wrong with his analysis, he finds Uber increases fatalities (a noticably but not significant):

> This model shows that on average, the presence of Uber was associated with a 2.0% (95% confidence interval: 0.98, 1.06) increase in traffic fatalities among all drivers; however, this association was not statistically significant at conventional levels.

I think he definitely needs to break out the results data into county by county results to see if maybe there is a different result for maybe more populous counties.

Hmm, the study [0] credits over all reduction of drunk driving accidents to Uber. If ride sharing is the source of reduction, shouldn't ride sharing in general be credited? Maybe Uber was the only ride-share available during the study though since it's data from 1989-2013.

"A recent increase in the ease and availability of alternative rides for intoxicated passengers partially explains the steep decrease in alcohol-related collisions in New York City since 2011.I examine the specific case of Uber’s car service launch in New York Cityin May 2011, a unique example of a sudden increase in cab availability for intoxicated passengers.7This study draws on a dataset of all New York State alcohol-related collisions maintained by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles from 1989 through 2013. My inference is based on the variation in Uber access across New York State counties over time and the careful choice of New York State counties that provide an appropriate control group for New York City’s drunk- driving behavior"


Fair enough, looks like lyft only came to NYC around 2014[1]. But does anyone know if the ride share prices in NYC from 2011 [2] to now has significantly changed? I vaguely remember a lot of people using it initially because of dirt cheap prices during the first few month of introduction but I don't trust my memory over facts if someone has some.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyft#History

[2] https://techcrunch.com/2011/04/06/i-just-rode-in-an-uber-car...

Study credits Uber because specificity > vagueness. From 2011 - present Uber was responsible for vast the majority of ride-share rides: https://www.thestreet.com/story/13536061/1/uber-now-more-pop...

Living in New York for 2012-2015: it felt like there was about a 50:50 split on Lyft vs Uber.

Lyft doesn't seem to have even near that sort of penetration in other cities from what I've experienced.

What gave you the impression that Lyft has 50%? Thats certainly not been my experience.

SF probably 60% Uber, 40% Lyft. Although to be honest, I'd argue Lyft is becoming a bit more common.

My feeling is that statistics figures based on feelings are probably at least 60% wrong.

Lyft has a decent presence in Los Angeles and a number of people, including myself, find it to be consistently cheaper.

It's not just about dirt cheap. You know that you're not going to get screwed by an uber driver, even if you're drunk. Can't say the same about cab drivers, who've definitely tried to pull things when they see drunk people. Not to mention the ones that'll just pass you by over and over, or won't come to your location at a certain time, or just not answer the phone. Cabs in general have been horrible.

I've been taken advantage of by Uber drivers while drunk.

That said, when I woke up the next day^Wmonth and saw the charges and the loop-de-loops they took to get me home, I complained and Uber refunded me the whole fare, which I didn't even ask for. If this was a cab and even with a credit card charge (forget about cash) I would have just written it off.

Well if you didn't end up paying for it then they didn't really take advantage. They just attempted to and were stopped by the feedback loop ride sharing systems offer.

Yes, that's the parent poster's point.

Uber has done that for me a couple times, either whole or in part, when the driver get very lost and it takes double the time and distance.

Exactly. My experience as a tourist in the US has been horrible. Even drunk I still realize that the driver makes considerable detours on the way. With Uber that will either not happen or I can complain and get a refund.

I sound like a tourist (Brit in NYC) and cabs will often take random detours hoping I don't notice. Ride shares are better than the yellow cabs. I've found that audibly turning on my GPS when I get into a cab seems to curb it.

> Fair enough, looks like lyft only came to NYC around 2014[1]. But does anyone know if the ride share prices in NYC from 2011 [2] to now has significantly changed?

You would have to look at how the ride sharing services came about in different cities around the world.

The two most popular ways to measure those effects in economics are differences-in-differences (basically a clinical trial -- you need some very similar placebo city to compare it to) or regression discontinuity design (you need a fairly immediate effect, so assuming people learn to use uber this is out of the question).

Convenient that PR timing for Uber as well.

Only if the introduction of other ride-sharing services happened at the same time - I have no idea of the timeline in NY, but the author send to be using the sudden introduction as a natural experiment.

Of course, the results are probably applicable to other ride-sharing schemes.

I've wondered if cell phones have led to fewer altercations on subways as people spend more time focused on them, giving them less reason or chance to argue and fight with others.

That's a funny hypothesis to think about. I wish there was a good data set we could analyze on this matter. I'd really like to be able to answer the question: "Have smartphones reduced human interaction. Especially with strangers."

Proving another benefit of subsidized public transportation. In Uber's case, low-cost rides subsidized by its investors.

Would you mind showing me their financials in the US market, so we can see the extent of the subsidization across different cities? I would like to see the numbers that you derived your claim from in regards to Uber's operations in the US.

If you Google "user is losing money" there's a whole crap ton of results. Here's one - https://news.vice.com/story/uber-is-losing-money

There was a really detailed breakdown posted somewhere on HN a while ago but I don't have it offhand.

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