What Do You Do for Money, Honey

How far would you go to make a buck? Would you be willing to put lives at risk for personal gain? Fortunately, most people aren’t in a position where they have to ask themselves these questions. But politicians are.

Let’s consider the ride sharing industry. Uber and Lyft allow people with cars to make a little extra cash by providing taxi services. Having this option available has been a boon for passengers as they are no longer restricted to the taxi cartels. However, the taxi cartels have been petitioning their protectors, municipal governments, to stifle their ride sharing competitors. Several major cities have responded by passing regulations that are too burdensome for Uber and Lyft.

In addition to increasing the costs for passengers, kicking Uber and Lyft out of cities has had another side effect. Incidents of drunk driving have increased:

However, after the city of Austin passed new burdensome regulations on the ridesharing economy last summer, Uber and Lyft both decided to cease operating within city limits. In the several months since their departure, driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) arrests have already spiked according to the Austin Police Department’s own data.

Before Uber came to town in 2014, Austin Police Department’s data showed that the city had an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month. When these numbers were revisited a year after ridesharing came to Austin, drunk driving arrests had dropped by five percent. This trend continued the following year when the number of drunk driving arrests dropped by an additional 12 percent, bringing the average number of arrests to about 438 per month.

In May of 2016, the same month Uber and Lyft made the decision to leave Austin, the monthly rate of drunk driving incidents was down to an average of 358. However, within the first few months of Uber and Lyft’s absence, the number of DUI arrests increased by 7.5 percent from the previous year. In the month of July alone, the city had 476 drunk driving arrests.

This puts the city politicians in a position where they have to ask themselves if they’re willing to put lives at risk for personal profit. Drunk driving citations are big money for cities. Cartelizing the taxi business also makes cities a decent chunk of change. Providing protection to the taxi cartels can also lead to lucrative campaign contributions. But it all comes at the expense of putting motorists on the road at risk of being killed by a drunk driver.

Part of the reason I despise politicians so much is because they are in a position to profit off of our misery and often take opportunities to do so. Although I won’t go so far as to say the politicians in Austin, Texas were purposely being malicious when they passed regulations against Uber and Lyft (I can’t read minds, after all), I will say that they are in a position to ease people’s misery by removing those regulations. The question now that we have data showing the consequences of booting Uber and Lyft out of the city is whether or not Austin’s politicians are willing to forgo the money they’re making off of the regulations they passed. Needless to say, I’m not optimistic.