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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Ride-sharing apps like Uber may reduce drunk driving

Responsible Washington residents who go out with friends may select a designated driver when alcohol is likely to be consumed, but a growing body of data is showing that ride-sharing applications like Uber are also helping to reduce drunk driving. The information age has ushered in conveniences that would have seemed unimaginable just a few short years ago, and being able to summon a car simply by touching a button on a cellphone seems to be encouraging those who may decide to drink to leave their vehicles at home.

When surveyed, as many as 80 percent of Uber riders said that the app had prevented them from getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Data also seems to indicate that the availability of Uber cars has had an impact on drunk driving arrests in both Georgia and Texas. In Atlanta, the number of DUIs fell after the Uber service became available in 2012. The San Francisco-based company now has 19,000 or so drivers in the Atlanta area that serve more than half a million riders each year.

Uber ceased operations in Austin after lawmakers implemented stricter regulations in 2015, and drunk driving arrests increased by more than 7 percent in the three weeks following Uber's decision to pull out of the market compared with the same period a year earlier. Road safety advocacy groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving have criticized the Austin regulations. Before operations in Austin ceased, Uber drivers in the area were serving about 356,000 riders.

Drivers in Washington convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face severe penalties, and thus they may want to have the assistance of counsel after charges have been filed. Criminal defense attorneys may challenge the reliability of breath and blood test results when samples could have been handled incorrectly or the sophisticated testing equipment used may not have been properly maintained.

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