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Guest Author – December 2021

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Blogpost

By Edward Hutchison

Strategic Policy Partnerships Manager

Law Enforcement Liaison, Lyft

It took me a very long time to recognize that I was a victim and then a survivor of an alcohol and drug impaired driver, but the life changing events have had profound effects. My aunt was a newlywed, 23 at the time, with 13-month-old twins. She was departing early from dinner at my great grandmother’s house where all big family dinners occurred and waving goodbye to the family from her driver’s door. A 19-year-old poly-impaired driver struck her at approximately 70-80 miles per hour. He wanted to see how close to her he could get. I was a 9-year-old witness to this tragedy and it changed the direction of my life.

This occurred in 1975 and the young man received 6 months in jail and probation. He was a newlywed with a child and the court system didn’t want to adversely affect the rest of his life. For me personally, I wouldn’t recognize until later that I would dedicate my life to victims and to prevent tragedies like this from occurring to other families. I entered the military as a medic to mend soldiers. Later, I dedicated 20 years to roadway safety and curbing impaired driving with the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) as its traffic safety director.

While there, and under the direction of the Traffic Safety Committee Chairperson, Sheriff John Whetsel, we were able to make great strides in the Office of Sheriff being recognized as a serious contender in reducing impaired driving – a challenge in changing minds that elected officials could both remove impaired individuals from community roadways and still seek re-election. Frankly, changing the predetermined mindset of others about the Office of Sheriff’s role in traffic safety was just as challenging.

Two great events occurred during my tenure with the NSA. In tandem with Sheriff Cathy Witt, the Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services committee, and the Traffic Safety Committee and its formidable members, we directed the change in the FBI Uniform Crime Report to include victims of impaired driving (vehicular manslaughter, for example). This both allows for collecting data and providing Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds for those victims of crime, including those involved in crashes with impaired drivers. This was a milestone, and one of the highlights of my career.

The second great aspect of working with the NSA and the Traffic Safety Committee was the deep friendships formed with the committee members, MADD being one, with the same singular focus – saving lives on our roadways. It was an honor to serve, and an honor to witness, the great work in reducing crashes, catastrophic injuries, and deaths on our roadways due to impaired drivers.

Today, I am pleased to have moved into the technology community working for the app-based company Lyft. At Lyft, I can broaden that focus with ridesharing – a unique transportation service that is a natural alternative to impaired driving for the 18 – 35 demographic of young people, who I had a difficult time reaching during my NSA years. Lyft has a demonstrated commitment to safety that motivates me in my position here equally to during my time at the NSA. The greatest part of my relatively new role here is working with the same individuals and organizations to achieve the same goals. One such organization is the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). In a recent study produced by its National Traffic Law Center, researchers laid out a whole host of studies and findings demonstrating a reduction in DUI incidents – arrests, crashes, fatalities – when rideshare enters a community.

For example, a study conducted by Frank Martin-Buck in 2016 reported that rideshare reduces fatal alcohol-related auto crashes by 10 to 11.4%, depending upon transit usage. This study also reported that rideshare reduces DUI arrests by 8.7% to 9.2% in cities with low to moderate transit usage (Martin-Buck, 2017). Another study released in 2017 conducted by the City University of New York found that in four boroughs of New York City there was a 25 to 35% reduction in alcohol-related car crashes since Uber launched in New York City in 2011 (Peck, 2017). Dills and Mulholland conducted a more recent study and found that Uber’s presence in the cities examined lowered the rate of DUIs and fatal crashes (Dills & Mulholland, 2018).

The NDAA study of Lyft’s data looked at several California cities with some striking discoveries. For example, the study found that In Los Angeles during the period prior to rideshare from 2010 through 2013 there was a 4.1% increase in DUI incidents. Following the initiation of rideshare there was a 39.6% decline from incidents in 2013 to incidents in 2018. In San Diego, arrests decreased a total of 24.7% following the introduction of Lyft (i.e., from 2013 – 2017). This is compared to a 11.5% decrease in the years preceding ridesharing from 2008 to 2013 and collisions decreased a total of 18.7% following the introduction of Lyft from 2013 to 2017. This is compared to a 9.8% reduction in the years preceding introduction from 2008 to 2013. In San Francisco, DUI incidents decreased a total of 31.0% and DUI booking decreased by 31.7%. Immediately prior to the first full year of launch (i.e., 2012 to 2013) incidents and bookings both increased by 65.9%.

The report concluded that an annual economic survey conducted by Lyft, found that 71% of riders reported they are less likely to drive substance-impaired due to the availability of Lyft. As previously mentioned, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has documented that most alcohol impaired driving fatalities occur on nights and weekends, this information aligns with the frequency of Lyft’s reported ride use where the majority of Lyft rides take place outside of commute hours, such as nights and weekends. In addition, according to a recent analysis by Lyft, more Lyft pick-ups and drop-offs occur in areas where entertainment and nightlife establishments occur and during the evening and that Lyft has positioned itself as an accessible alternative to driving impaired especially during the days, times, and locations most needed.

A second NDAA study reviewed data from three cities for analysis for its second report: Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Fort Worth, Texas. These cities were selected based on their volume of traffic, DWI incidences, and availability of data. The report discovered that during the years prior to the introduction of ridesharing (i.e., 2009 to 2013) there was a 25.7 percent increase in DUI charges. This is compared to a 52.3 percent decrease from 2013 to 2017 for Atlanta. Following the introduction of ridesharing, the number of crashes decreased by 17.8 percent from 2013 through 2017. For the city of Chicago, during the period prior to rideshare from 2008 through 2013, there was a 23.0 percent decrease in DUI arrests from 4,318 to 3,323. Following the initiation of rideshare in Chicago there was a 40.3 percent decrease in arrests from 2013 to 2017. Finally, in Fort Worth, Texas, there was a substantial reduction in the number of arrests in Fort Worth. In fact, the number of arrests decreased by 47.3 percent. This included a 43.1 percent reduction in arrests preceding the introduction of Lyft and a 7.5 percent reduction in the number of arrests post-Lyft, and the number of DUI crashes decreased by 31.4 percent over this period. This included a 28.7 percent reduction in crashes preceding the introduction of Lyft (i.e., 2012 – 2014) and a 3.8 percent reduction in crashes post-introduction (2014 – 2017), moving the needle still farther than the impressive efforts of law enforcement to reduce impaired driving in its community prior to the availability of Lyft.

While statistically significant, I see behind each reduction not numbers, but families like mine – not receiving that dreadful call about a loved one. While there is still much work to be done, and my sleeves remain rolled up for the task, I am incredibly proud of my work with Lyft and its fidelity to impacting impaired driving by providing an alternative to driving drunk or drug impaired on our roadways. I am eager to demonstrate my own support, my continued efforts and dedication to making victims of impaired driving a thing of the past.

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