Here in good ole’ South Florida, the clubs are open late, the booze flows freely and the public transportation system here is a big letdown. There is a standout number that has just been released. This standout fact is that the number of drunk drivers on South Florida roads appears to be going down.
Well, at least the number of driver’s getting caught is.
So, statistics show that in the past four years, DUI arrests made by Miami-Dade’s two largest departments have plummeted greatly. In Miami-Dade, the largest police department in the Southeastern U.S., arrests were down a whopping 65 percent in 2017 from four years previous. From 2013 to 2015, Miami-Dade police arrested more than 1,500 people. That number was almost down by 1/3 as only 594 were arrested on the same charge last year.
The City of Miami’s Police Department numbers weren’t quite as eye-popping, but they also declined a lot. Miami police arrested 461 people on DUI charges in 2013. By 2015, that number dropped to 321 and has leveled off since then marking a 31 percent decrease.
Now let us not be crazy here and forget that rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have a big hand in this number. People are using these services more than ever and are trying to be smarter about not drinking and driving. Especially when these providers are not only pretty cheap, but they are readily available at just about any time in just about any place Their increasing popularity coincided almost directly with the drop in DUI arrests. However, studies also have found impacts varied from city to city.
There are other factors that also play in, say those who tracked the numbers. Some attribute the drop-off to a more educated public. Others point to more pro-active law enforcement and a trendy distaste for driving by the millennial generation.
“The reality is, it’s really hard to know the complete impact,” said David Pinsker, Florida’s executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), “I think it’s just really hard to pinpoint exactly what ride-sharing has done. We know it’s had an impact. I can say that certainly. But I can’t put a number on it.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez brought up the decline a few weeks ago with the Miami Herald Editorial Board while discussing parking concerns related to a plan to build a soccer stadium at International Links Melreese Country Club. His 50 percent decline estimate was off slightly but close. The mayor attributed the drop to ride-sharing, a transportation option he argued would also reduce parking demands for the project.
There have been only a limited number of studies analyzing whether ride-sharing contributes to a decline in drunk driving. In 2015, MADD teamed up with Uber and found that drunk-driving crashes for people under 30 years of age decreased by 6.5 percent in markets where ride-sharing was launched. Two years later, a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a correlation between ride-sharing and a decline in drunk driving but not in every city.
Javier Correoso, the public affairs manager for Uber in Florida, said his company has worked closely with MADD on getting the word out about how easy it is to catch a ride during the two heaviest drinking holidays of the year, Halloween and New Year’s Eve.
“I think our presence and our growth in South Florida go hand-in-hand with giving our riders an alternative to getting behind the wheel when they’re drinking,” he said.
But Correoso wouldn’t go so far as to say ride-sharing has definitively cut down on drunk driving and that the numbers have dropped because millennials are driving less and using Uber more.
Miami-Dade police have had a sergeant and five officers working on a DUI squad for years. Often, others join in and up to 15 units saturate the roadways looking for drunk drivers. Detective and spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said DUI arrests have dropped because of all of the above — beefed up enforcement, working with MADD to educate and millennials preferring letting others do the driving.
“I think all of it together is where I feel the success has come from,” he said.
“Ride-sharing has definitely impacted things. Everybody now with their Smartphones, there’s always an Uber around. Uber and Lyft have definitely been an impact,” he said. “But we’re still out there.”