Do Uber and Lyft Increase the Rate of Fatal Car Accidents on Our Streets?

By Levin Simes
November 9, 2018

Uber, Lyft and the rate of fatal accidents on our streets

Uber and Lyft are lauded as making streets safer by keeping drunk drivers off the road.  In fact, Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released a report in 2015 that said, “Uber is having a meaningful and positive impact on mindsets and the rate of drunk driving.”[i]

Yet new research out this month from the University of Chicago and Rice University suggests that when rideshare companies Uber and Lyft come to town, there’s a net 2 – 4% increase in the rate of fatal auto collisions on the streets.[ii]  This increase affects drivers, riders, and pedestrians in the cities Uber and Lyft serve, and the increase is consistent whether it’s a Monday or a Saturday, during the daytime and at night.  The increased rates of fatal accidents costs an estimated $5.33 – $13.24 billion each year.[iii]

Study on Uber and Lyft death and car accident rate

The study collected data from all incorporated places in the United States with populations of at least 10,000 in 2010, and which had at least 1 fatal car accident between 2001 and 2016.  The authors then compared that information to fatal accidents reported in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS).  Only crashes that happened on streets that are typically open to pedestrians are included, and a crash is only counted as a fatality if a driver, passenger, or pedestrian dies within 30 days of the collision.

The authors used launch dates of Uber and Lyft that were provided by the companies.  They attempted to account for error that might skew the data against rideshare companies by only counting accidents that happened after the official rollout date in each place of the apps.  For example:

  • Uber was introduced in San Francisco in 2010.
  • Obviously, some riders used the app to get rides to destinations outside of San Francisco even before the rideshare company was officially released (e.g., a rider gets in the car in SF and catches a ride to neighboring Daly City).
  • To keep Uber or Lyft from taking a hit, the authors would only count accidents that happened within the city and county of San Francisco from 2010 until the official rollout of the apps in Daly City.
  • After Uber launched in Daly City, accidents there would be counted.

Some of the things the authors found contradict what rideshare companies have been telling us are the benefits of their services.  First, instead of reducing congestion, Uber and Lyft are associated with net increases in vehicle miles traveled, excess gas consumption, and annual hours spent in traffic.  This suggests that Uber and Lyft are cannibalizing riders from higher-density public transit options (buses, trains), discouraging people from walking, or encouraging people to go out more (or all three).  Second, Uber and Lyft are encouraging more people to buy or lease cars.  New car registrations went up by 3%, particularly in cities that historically had more use of public transit.

Of course, drunk driving fatality rates did fall, but these rates had been declining steadily since the 1990s—so Uber and Lyft can’t take credit for that.  In fact, as the authors pointed out, in cities where ridesharing was adopted earlier, drunk driving fatalities had been decreasing faster than in places that were late to adopt ridesharing, so these cities were already effective at curbing drunk driving without any help from Uber and Lyft.

Lyft accident lawyer, Uber accident lawyer

Uber and Lyft are selling us a false bill of goods, telling us that they’re filling a need and doing a public service.  In reality, they’re increasing the likelihood that people will be involved in a fatal collision.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an Uber accident or Lyft accident, contact the experienced rideshare injury attorneys of Levin Simes today. Contact Levin Simes at (415) 426-3000,, or through our website.


[i] Uber and MADD Report (Jan. 2015), available at:

[ii] John M. Barrios, Yael V. Hochberg & Livia Hanyi Yi, The Cost of Convenience: Ridesharing and Traffic Fatalities (Oct. 3, 2018) (unpublished manuscript), available at:

[iii] Liane Yvkoff, Updated: Ubers And Lyfts May Increase Road Deaths, Study Claims, Forbes, Oct. 23, 2018,

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