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Ride-sharing services may reduce drunk driving

Uber and other ride-sharing services are changing the concept of the "designated driver" in Illinois and nationwide, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The organization says ride-sharing smartphone apps are saving lives by making it easy for adults to get a safe, affordable ride home after drinking.

Eighty percent of Uber riders credit the service with helping them avoid drinking and driving, and drunk driving data from cities that use Uber seem to back that up. The Atlanta Police Department released a data set showing all DUI arrests in Atlanta, Georgia, over a five-year period, three before Uber and two after the service arrived in the city. Arrests dropped by 32 percent, from 2,243 to 1,535, over that span.

Unfortunately, data also shows that drunk driving arrests may go up when ride-sharing companies leave a city. In Austin, Texas, DWI arrests increased 7.5 percent in the first three weeks after Uber and Lyft stopped offering services to riders in the city compared to the same period in the previous year. This is especially troublesome because Texas leads the country in drunk driving fatalities. However, MADD reports there is overall progress on drunk driving deaths across the U.S. In 2012, drunk driving accounted for 44 percent of all traffic deaths over the July 4th holiday weekend. In 2014, that number fell to 41 percent. Traffic safety advocates hope that driver education programs and ride-sharing services will eventually eliminate drunk driving fatalities.

Illinois residents convicted of drunk driving can face harsh penalties, including incarceration and heavy fines. Therefore, it could be advisable for those facing such charges to have the assistance of an attorney in coming up with a defense strategy to combat them, such as by challing the way that sobriety tests were administered.

Source USA Today, "Redefining the designated driver: MADD president," Colleen Sheehey-Church, July 3, 2016

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