When you look at data on drunken driving over the past 30-plus years, it’s clear that we’re making real progress. Drunken driving-related deaths have been cut in half since 1980, down to just under 10,000 in 2014. But it’s equally clear that bringing that number down to zero will require a lot of hard work, creative thinking and new ideas.
New York has been a leader in the fight against drunken driving. We were the first state to make it a felony for someone to drive drunk with a child in the car. On Long Island, we’ve taken on drunken driving with tough enforcement strategies, aggressive prosecutions and innovative prevention programs. Still, in 2014 alone, drunken driving claimed nearly 300 lives and caused more than 5,000 nonfatal injuries in New York.
Until we have the technology to prevent drunken drivers from operating their vehicles, we need to find new tools that can help keep them off the road. Right now, we have the opportunity to do that by embracing ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
On Long Island, we all know that public transportation is limited – it’s one of the reasons that drunken driving is such a problem in our communities. People need more reliable, affordable transportation options. They need to be able to leave the car in the garage when they go out at night and know they have a safe way to get home.
Ride-sharing services are already allowed to operate in 30 states, and we’ve already seen evidence in several cities that these services contribute to lower rates of drunken driving. That evidence reflects common sense: If you know you can use a reliable service like Uber or Lyft to get home safely at an affordable price, you’re less likely to make a bad choice that could cost a life.
There’s no single tool that can eliminate drunken driving. Tough penalties and aggressive enforcement act as effective deterrents for many people, but for others, treatment is the only solution. Raising awareness and educating people about the risks saves many lives, but some people will still decide to take those risks.
Ride-sharing services are no silver bullet, but they are a tool that we can use to help save lives.
Last month was Alcohol Awareness Month, a fitting time for all of us to think about what new weapons we can bring to the fight against drunken driving. As state lawmakers consider ride-sharing legislation in the coming weeks, they have an opportunity to do the same. Companies like Uber and Lyft are ready to start serving our communities on Long Island and across New York State, and we should welcome them as an ally in that fight.