A new study conducted by researchers from the Bocconi University, Oxford, and the University of California-Davis has revealed that ridesharing reduces road traffic fatalities and injuries in the United Kingdom.
University of Oxford’s Department of Sociology and Nuffield College’s Professor David Kirk shared via science and technology platform Phys.org that that ridesharing, like Uber, is a transportation intervention that may have the potential to alter road safety globally but there has been little study on the possible detrimental and beneficial effects of ride-hailing services for public safety. This is why they conducted the research, presenting the first findings of the link between road accident injuries and the deployment of peer-to-peer ridesharing services in the UK.
Ride-Hailing Services and Road Safety in the UK
Professor Kirk and colleagues found that there has been a steady decrease in the number of road accident-related injuries and fatalities since the mid-1960s because of limitations set when it comes to drink-driving and improvement in vehicle and road safety. However, the progress on lessening these road fatalities in recent years started to reverse course as serious injuries increased to about 12% between 2014 and 2018. Traffic fatalities became the leading causes of death, along with drug overdose and suicide, for people 15 to 29 years old not only in the UK but globally.
In theory, lowering the cost of other modes of transportation and expanding their availability will reduce the cases of drink-driving fatalities and occurrences. One may think that Uber would increase road accidents because the number of miles traveled and the number of vehicles would increase on the roads. Yet, this is not what their study found. Instead, they discovered that after Uber was introduced outside London, the number of road-related slight injuries, including bruises and sprains, declined. In London, though, the number increased but they found no “statistically” significant link between traffic fatalities and Uber services.
Fewer Drink-Drivers on the Road
One of their interpretations for why there was a decline in traffic-related serious injuries is that Uber services have become an alternative form of transportation for drink-drivers and risky drivers. Ridesharing has likewise become an alternative for public transit, like buses, that increased traffic congestion in the country.
The team said that their next move is to determine the effect on road accidents after Uber was not granted the new license to operate in London and other cities in the country. Professor Kirk said that they also hope to study the effects of other ridesharing competitors of Uber in countries other than the UK and US, considering that the majority of the ridesharing market exists in Asia.
In 2018, research from the Booth School at the University of Chicago had findings contrary to the Oxford study. Their study titled “The Cost of Convenience: Ridesharing and Traffic Fatalities” examined the effect of ridesharing services on traffic accidents in US cities. They said that the arrival of Uber and Lyft was linked to the increase of 2 to 3% in the number of fatal accidents and motor vehicle fatalities. The number of accidents was not limited to vehicle occupants but was also for pedestrians. Lead author John Barrios said, “We need to think of the wholistic costs and benefits.”
Ridesharing services, like Uber, have transformed the way people travel. Aside from offering improved mobility, they also use apps to connect drivers and riders in just a few clicks. The transaction would allow automatic charge to the rider’s credit card without currency or cash exchange required during the transit. This means that safety is improved not just for drivers but also riders as they don’t need to carry large sums of money.
Mobile app builder BuildFire shares that the global market of Uber last year reached US$72 billion. Although the company was born in Paris in 2008, its first ride happened in San Francisco. Over the next few years, the company launched its service in other cities too, including the following: London, UK (2012), Mexico City, Mexico (2013), Taipei, Taiwan, (2013), Johannesburg, South Africa (2013), Bangalore, India (2013), Beijing, China (2013), Lagos, Nigeria (2014), and Nairobi, Kenya (2015). It is now available in 65 countries and more than 600 cities globally.
Uber London Demographics
Every day, 14 million Uber trips are completed worldwide. When the government office Transport for London stripped Uber’s license in 2017, the ridesharing company pointed to two bases to help restore its license. They said that 3.5 million Londoners and 40,000 drivers use their services. Figures released by the British daily Telegraph also showed that the majority of Uber users are disproportionately young. About 27.9% of Uber users are between 18 and 24 years old, 16.1% are riders between 25 and 34 years old, 9.8% are between 35 and 44 years old, 8% are people between 45 and 54 years old, and the remaining 2.7% are people who are 55 years old and above.
The majority of Uber drivers work part-time with 21% of them saying that they work only less than 10 hours per week. About 17% of Uber drivers said they work 10 to 20 hours per week, 18% said they work 20 to 30 hours, 16% said they work 30 to 40 hours, and 28% said they work for more than 40 hours per week. The data was based on the first quarter of 2016 but it shows that the service is attractive to people who enjoy the flexible nature of their work or who can earn extra income by working part-time.
Uber is also one of the world’s most valuable startups worldwide. Its total equity funding reached $1.6billion. Other companies included in the list are Airbnb ($800m), Dropbox ($507m), Xiaomi ($347), and Palantir ($594m).
Road traffic injuries and fatalities remain a public health concern. Traffic guidelines and rules have to be strictly followed and set in place so that injuries and accidents can be avoided. If ridesharing services can help reduce road fatalities and injuries, just as the Oxford study has found, it would be worth taking into consideration when utilizing road safety measures.