This summer, police and government officials in Evesham Township, located in southern New Jersey, realized that the town of 45,000 people was on track to rack up a staggering 250 DUIs in 2015. To curb drunk driving, Reuters reports that the township organized a partnership with Uber, funded by donors, in which the ridesharing giant would act as designated drivers residents, giving them free rides home from 19 establishments within the town. Evesham Township is the first U.S. municipality to have such a relationship with Uber.
Reuters reports that, “Donations from [Evesham] nonprofits and businesses are also funding a second free ride option that started on October 23: the mobile app BeMyDD, through which people can hire a driver to get both them and their car home.”
Free rides are offered from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and though the program for both apps was originally slated to end January 2, 2016, so many local businesses have been contributing to the program that it will likely keep running—all without using taxpayer money. Each ride costs between $5 and $10, but residents using the service don’t pay a dime—all they do is order up a car on the Uber app, click on Evesham, and within minutes, a car arrives to ferry them home (but not, importantly, to any other location–like another bar).
Some Background on Evesham’s Program
Reuters reports that Uber began working with the mayor of Evesham, Randy Brown, through Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), an Uber partner. M.A.D.D. and Uber worked together on a report showing that Uber, and other services like it, have the ability to dramatically reduce drunk driving. From their report: “In California, drunk-driving crashes fell 6.5% among drivers under 30 in the markets where Uber operates following the launch of uberX in the state. That represents potentially 60 fewer drunk driving crashes each month — a total of 1,800 crashes avoided — since July 2012.” Also, “Nearly 4 in 5 (78%) respondents said friends are less likely to drive home after drinking since ridesharing services like Uber started operating in their city. A remarkable 93% of people would recommend Uber as a safer way home to a friend who had been drinking.”
Ana Mahony, general manager for Uber New Jersey, said in a statement that the partnership with Evesham offered the “perfect opportunity to use Uber’s technology to help take drunk drivers off the road.”
The Future of Rideshare Designated Drivers
The program has been running for a few weeks now, and Mayor Brown says they’ve already brought over 500 Evesham residents home safely after a night on the town.
Brown told New Jersey 101.5, “We’ve actually been contacted by multiple counties and multiple towns in the state of New Jersey to replicate our program.” Brown couldn’t offer specifics, but said he’s hopeful similar programs will roll out in time for the holiday season.
Mahony told New Jersey 101.5, ““Uber is very excited to be working on this first of its kind partnership to offer late night rides to residents. We want to be a partner to local governments and organizations in helping them solve some of the problems they face.” An Uber spokesperson told Reuters that the company is considering working with other towns to extend the pilot program in Evesham.
In another move to help revelers get home safely (and legally) Uber recently rolled out Uber Events, which allows organizations to pre-arrange free Uber rides home for event participants—a great asset for the holiday season. Just imagine how much more scandalous your company party would be with safe rides home for all employees (lampshades all around).
Other ride-share designated driver apps have begun to pop up: like Luxe, which began as a personalized valet service in cities. They’re now piloting their Drive Home service in San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Los Angeles in the evenings from Thursday to Saturday. Schedule a pick-up place and time, and a driver and a valet will meet you to ferry both you and your car home safely (for $25 plus $3/mile). During the pilot, they recommend booking ahead.
Increasing Designated Drivers on College Campuses
Sobrio, a new app for iOS and Android, connects college students who need safe rides home with designated drivers on their campus. To get a ride, users enter their location, pick up time, and number of passengers–that’s it. There’s no fee, but passengers can give donations to their drivers.
On October 26th, The New York Times reported Uber’s plans to move into upstate New York to try to capture some of the college campus market. As of now, Uber is only allowed to operate in New York City, but the Times reports that, “About four out of five alcohol-related crashes in the state happened outside New York City in 2013, despite the city’s huge share of the population, according to state data. The counties that include Buffalo and Rochester, where a number of colleges are, also have among the highest number of crashes.”
Though Uber’s upstate expansion wouldn’t be free, like Evesham’s program, it’s likely to save lives. The Baton Rouge Business Report said in early November that since Uber entered the Baton Rouge market 15 months ago, DUI arrests have gone down 18%, a decrease which the local police chief partially attributes to Uber. Uber’s general Manager for the Gulf Coast region says Baton Rouge isn’t the only place seeing a decline in DUIs after Uber’s come to town: “San Francisco, Philadelphia and Tampa are among several cities that have noted a decrease in DUIs following the arrival of Uber and other ride-sharing apps into those markets.”