GC Study Finds NYC Experienced Drop in Drunk Driving-Related Car Crashes Following Arrival of App-Based Car Service

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Media contact: Tanya Domi, tdomi@gc.cuny.edu, 212-817-7283

Graduate Center Study Finds New York City Experienced a Substantial Drop in Drunk Driving-Related Car Crashes Following the Arrival of App-Based Car Service

Auto collisions involving drunk drivers dropped 25 to 35 percent in four of the city’s five boroughs, with Manhattan experiencing the most significant decrease


NEW YORK, March 30, 2017 – Digital app-based car services that allow customers to order transportation on demand continue to be the focus of studies exploring the technology’s impact on local economies. Now, a new working paper of a study conducted by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York doctoral candidate Jessica Peck (Economics) finds that the arrival of app-based car service to New York City in 2011 ushered in a substantial decrease in drunk driving–related car accidents.

According to the working paper, with the exception of Staten Island—where app-based car service is significantly less available—accidents involving drunk drivers fell an average of 25 to 35 percent in New York City during the two years that followed the arrival of Uber, which was the first such service to appear. The drop amounts to about 40 collisions per month.

“At this point, it’s clear that app-based car service is a major disruptive technology, and, because of this, municipalities all around the world are grappling with its effect on everything from unions and drivers’ wages to traffic congestion, air quality, and car sales,” said Peck. “I wanted to take a look at what impact it may be having on drunk driving accidents because we can save lives and reduce the overall health care cost associated with these often tragic events if municipalities can reduce their occurrence.”

To isolate the effect of app-based car service on drunk driving incidents in New York City, Peck focused her analysis on data collected between three key time points: January 2007 (four years prior to Uber’s arrival), May 2011 (when Uber first entered the market), and July 2013 (when outer borough green cabs and other car service competitors arrived to the marketplace). This method allowed the researcher to factor out the potential effects of other new forms of transportation on drunk driving–related accidents.

Surprisingly, drunk driving accidents decreased most substantially in Manhattan, where taxis, trains, and other forms of public transportation are most readily available. Several factors may be responsible for this seemingly disproportionate benefit. Most prominent among them is that Manhattan is the city’s most popular nightlife destination.

While the working paper doesn’t explore how app-based car service helped facilitate such an impressive drop in drunk driving-related accidents, the author suggest several possible factors, including that the service put more drivers on the road during peak service-demand periods, provided an easy and secure way for inebriated individuals to seek a ride when they might not be capable of navigating streets and conducting money exchange, and reduced wait times.

“This is an excellent study that documents an important upside to increased access to transportation,” said David Jaeger, professor of economics at the Graduate Center. “By comparing the four boroughs of New York City that received app-based car service to other counties in New York State where this kind of service was not available, Ms. Peck has shown that this technology, which created expanded access to a form of semi-public transportation, is responsible for a substantial decline in alcohol-related collisions. Policy makers should take notice of the potential positive public health consequences of increasing access to transit.”

While the large drop in drunk driving incidents is impressive, Peck said other municipalities should not necessarily expect to experience such a strong effect, due to varying factors like car ownership rate, public transit use, and drinking norms. She believes, however, that the potential to reduce drunk driving–related accidents is a benefit that mayors and other government officials will want to factor in when making decisions about whether to allow app-based car services to operate in their jurisdictions. Peck plans to broaden her research to look at other urban centers.

About the Graduate Center
The Graduate Center (GC) is the principal doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). Positioned at the center of the largest urban public university in America, the GC fosters pioneering research and scholarship in the arts and sciences, and trains graduate students for careers in universities and the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. Unlike typical research-intensive universities, the Graduate Center focus exclusively on graduate education, with over 35 doctoral and master’s programs, and 30 research centers, institutes and initiatives.  Every year, GC students teach over 200,000 CUNY undergraduates, with another 150,000 undergraduates taught by GC alumni in virtually every college and university across the City.  Through its public programs, the Graduate Center enhances the City’s intellectual and cultural life. Visit www.gc.cuny.edu to learn more.

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Submitted on: MAR 30, 2017

Category: Economics | Press Room