A dark side to Uber, Lyft: Ride-sharing linked to increase in accidents

NEW YORK — Over the last 10 years, ride-sharing services have dramatically changed the way people get around. Over 11 billion rides have taken place worldwide since apps like Uber and Lyft came on the scene. A new study out of Columbia University reveals a downside to these services. It turns out that ride-sharing trips cause an increase in the number of accidents involving motorists and pedestrians at pick-up and drop-off locations.

Previous studies on the relationship between ride-sharing services and vehicle crashes compare cities where ride-sharing services are available with cities where they are not, and this makes results somewhat ambiguous. In this study researchers analyze individual trips to make the picture a little clearer.

Columbia researchers along with a team of researchers from Oxford University analyzed data from 372 million ride-sharing trips in New York City between 2017 and 2018. Whenever a crash occurred in the city, they calculated the number of ride-sharing trips that began or ended in the area at the time of the accident. They compared this with the number of trips that took place in the same location one week before and one week after the crash.

Researchers did the same calculations for regular taxi rides as part of their analyses. Also, separate analyses were performed based on the type of people injured in the crash: pedestrians, motorists or cyclists.

The results of the analyses show that the rise in ride-sharing trips is associated with an increase in the number of accidents involving pedestrians and motorists, but not cyclists. Furthermore, they did not find this same association between taxi trips and accidents.

“Ridesharing is changing the way we move around cities,” says first author Christopher Morrison, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, in a release. “It is becoming clear that the technology reduces alcohol-related crashes, but these benefits do not seem to extend to the overall number of crashes. These findings help explain why that might be–because the reductions in alcohol-related crashes are off-set by increases in other types of crashes.”

Researchers hope that cities and ride-sharing services will use the results of this study to take measures that might reduce the number of crashes. “In congested areas with large numbers of rideshare pick-ups and drop-offs, cities could consider installing taxi-rank style infrastructure to protect pedestrians and prevent crashes,” concludes Morrison.

The study is published in Injury Prevention.