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Could ride-sharing apps bring about the end of DUI?

Over the last few decades, policymakers have made numerous efforts to curb drunk driving, with varying degrees of success. Overall, DUI has been trending downward, although not at a fast enough pace for many.

That could be changing, if the experience of officials in Miami, Florida, represents a trend. According to the Miami Herald, DUI arrests have dropped significantly in both Miami proper and Miami-Dade County. Observers credit a number of factors, but one of the most significant may be the popularity of ride-sharing apps.

Over the past four years, Miami-Dade officers have arrested 65-percent fewer people for DUI. From 2013 to 2015, over 1,500 DUI arrests had been made annually. Last year, only 594 people were arrested for DUI. In the city of Miami, officers arrested 461 people for DUI in 2013. That number had dropped to 321 by 2015 and has since leveled off. That's a 31-percent reduction.

Have the police in these two major departments cut back on DUI enforcement? No, Miami-Dade has a base staff of one sergeant and five officers on their DUI squad -- and has had for years and up to 15 other units join that base staff for saturation patrols. Miami confirms that enforcement is either the same or more intense than it has been in the past.

"Ride-sharing has definitely impacted things. Everybody now with their smartphones; there's always an Uber around. Uber and Lyft have definitely been an impact," said the commander of Miami's traffic enforcement unit. "But we're still out there."

Nevertheless, it has been difficult to confirm the impact of ride-sharing through scientific studies. Still, a 2015 MADD/Uber study found drunk-driving accidents down by 6.5 percent among those under 30 in markets where ride-sharing services had been launched. In 2017, a more nationwide study had mixed results.

Considering data from 2013 to 2016, researchers found that DUIs in Portland, Oregon, dropped by nearly 60 percent after ride-sharing became available. Similar results were found in San Antonio, Texas. However, there was little change in either Reno or Las Vegas, Nevada. The researchers speculated that the reason for the difference was the high density of tourists in the Nevada towns, as tourists are much more likely to use taxis, car services or ride-sharing apps because they often don't have cars with them.

Data isn't available on whether DUI arrests or crashes are down in Chattanooga or Tennessee in general. However, the wide availability of services like Lyft and Uber give people additional, often less-expensive options when they find themselves needing a ride after drinking. The cost of using a service like Uber of Lyft is significantly less than the costs that are incurred with a DUI - from fines, fees, court costs, attorney's fees, rise in insurance costs, etc. However, if you are charged with DUI, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney.

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