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Rideshare use linked to increased traffic accidents

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

App-based rideshare services like Uber and Lyft offer a great convenience for consumers, but studies show that convenience comes with some unexpected costs. Researchers have found that increased use of rideshare services is linked to an increase in traffic accidents — both for occupants of vehicles and pedestrians.

This finding may come as a surprise to many of us. After all, one widely acknowledged benefit of rideshare services is that they allow people who have been drinking to text for a ride rather than trying to drive while drunk, which can be extremely dangerous. (Indeed, other studies have found a correlation between increased rideshare use and lower rates of drunk driving.)

However, researchers have found a very straightforward explanation for why increased rideshare use can mean an increased number of accidents. Put simply, the widespread use of rideshare services increases the number of vehicles on the road, and this can make accidents more likely.

To further this point, some surveys of rideshare app users found that about half the time, they use the services as an alternative to walking, biking or taking public transportation. In other words, if they hadn’t used the rideshare service to get to a certain location, they would not have used a car at all. Their use of a rideshare therefore increased the number of cars on the road.

New York study

In another study, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health looked at data from 372 million individual rideshare trips in the New York City area and compared them to records of the locations of crashes. They found that crashes tended to be in areas where people commonly get picked up or dropped off by drivers from rideshare services. The more rideshare activity in an area, the more common it was for a crash to occur in the area.

In one sense, this finding is not surprising. Rideshare app users may tend to concentrate their trips to certain desirable areas, and so this means these areas are busier than others, and therefore more likely to be the scene of an accident. For example, if a lot of people are traveling to and from Madison Square Garden at night because of a concert, it’s more likely that accidents will occur outside the theater.

However, this should be true no matter what mode of transportation the concertgoers are using, but the data didn’t bear that out. The Columbia University researchers looked at the data for taxi use as well, and found less of a correlation between taxi use and accidents. One reason for this could be that many places have created special pickup and drop-off zones for taxes, but haven’t organized rideshares in the same way.

Liability in rideshare accident cases

The studies we have mentioned don’t always look at the question of who was at fault in the accidents involving rideshares. In some cases, the rideshare driver was at fault, and in others someone else may have been at fault.

Similarly, these studies don’t look at the identity of all the people injured. In some cases, the injured person was a pedestrian, but in others it was a rideshare customer, a rideshare driver or the driver or occupants of another vehicle.

More research should be done on these issues, because it’s important to find out whether rideshare companies are doing enough to train their drivers and keep people safe.


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