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Study: The rise of ride-sharing might make streets more dangerous

Uber and Lyft can be cheaper and more convenient than a Raleigh taxi ride, but a new study suggests that the popular ride-sharing services might have a very negative impact on safety.

If you go back in time eight years to 2010 – just before Uber and Lyft began aggressively expanding their services across the U.S. – traffic fatalities were at their lowest in 60 years. When the ride-sharing companies began their expansions, authors of a university study say that fatal traffic crashes began to rise.

The as-yet-unpublished study by researchers at Rice University and the University of Chicago say “the arrival of ridesharing is associated with an increase of 2-3% in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents."

The researchers examined auto crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and then the dates on which Uber or Lyft began operating in major American cities. The study authors then analyzed the traffic wreck rates in those cities based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

The researchers say VMT saw a dramatic increase after Uber launched in San Francisco in 2010, in part because of the distances driven between the end of one fare and the start of the next. (An unrelated New York study shows ride-sharing drivers average 2.8 miles between fares.)

The researchers say that the introduction of the services in metro areas leads to a “meaningful increase in overall motor vehicle fatalities.” However, they acknowledge that it "may be too soon to tell whether the effect we document is a short-term adjustment or a longer-term pattern."

Both ride-share services dismiss the study as “deeply flawed.”

We look forward to more research into ride-sharing that can help make all of us safer.

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