From 2012 to 2013, the number of people arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Los Angeles County increased 10 percent.
This year saw a major, 14 percent drop in the number of DUI arrests compared to 2013, according to numbers provided by Wendy Brewer of the “Avoid the 100” task force, which represents about 100 law enforcement agencies in the county.
One very possible cause is your smartphone:
In a vast, 4,000-square-mile county, it's hard for many folks to get around without a car. And that has meant that DUIs have become a much-feared epidemic.
But ride-sharing apps like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have become a go-to Godsend for party people in L.A. And it's conceivable that they're starting have their impact on DUI statistics, possibly making streets safer for everyone.
How many friends do you know who now “Uber it” rather than get behind the wheel for a night out?
Brewer told us that she's not sure why there's such a serious drop in DUIs for Labor Day weekend:
I don’t have enough data or information on their services to make that correlation. The numbers have dropped since last year’s summer mobilization but from 2012 to 2013 they rose sharply from 2,098 to 2,313. There are many new apps out there giving checkpoint locations, etc., so it’s hard to name just one or two as the reason for this. But, even just one DUI is too many so, the work continues.
There were 1,982 DUI arrests for the two-week Labor Day, end-of-summer enforcement period this year, she said.
Uber declined to comment specifically for this piece, but a spokeswoman pointed us to this statement:
Drinking and driving shouldn’t mix, but unfortunately they sometimes do. A frequent explanation behind this risky behavior is the lack of a safe, reliable transportation alternative.
So in some sense, to combat drunk driving we must combat the unavailability and unreliability of transportation options for residents and visitors. Thanks to the creative application of new mobile technologies, we can now start to tackle this problem by giving people more, safer ways to get home.
Lyft said this:
Lyft expands access to safe, affordable and reliable transportation options in the L.A. area. When it becomes easier to find a convenient ride home, residents are more likely to take advantage of all the available transportation alternatives and less likely to depend on driving their own cars.
Brewer said you can expect more DUI crackdowns, including operations on Halloween, Thanksgiving Eve and during a “December Winter DUI Mobilization.”
So you might want to keep your phone handy.
[Added at 1:34 p.m.]: Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, a tech-industry trade group that represents ride-share companies, says that the apps are probably responsible for some reduction in DUIs:
The data seem to support our expectation that Lyft and Uber reduce DUIs.
But more important is the logical conclusion that we can reduce drink driving by giving young partiers transportation alternatives that are safe and require no computing of tips or counting of cash.