The national fatal traffic accident rate has declined since the 1980s. Traffic deaths dropped to nearly 33,000 in 2010, the lowest number since the late 1940s. Yet, by 2014, the number began to rise again, primarily due to a new segment of drivers.
Researchers speculate that the uptick in crashes was caused by the initial group of rideshare drivers, a transportation option that was beginning to take hold in various states.
Data reveals a possible link
Accident figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were combined with Uber and Lyft data, specifically when their services launched in almost 3,000 cities and communities. Their speculation surrounds ridesharing starting in an area of the country as a possible connection in the increase in fatal accidents.
In addition, gas use, miles driven, time in traffic, and new vehicle registrations grew. Another theory speculates that cities with multiple options for public transit saw many switching to rideshare travel.
Detractors claim that the study fails to address other vital issues. Gas prices saw a significant reduction in the latter part of 2014, which may have led to more vehicles on roads, potentially playing a role in traffic deaths. In addition, rural areas that do not have the luxury of rideshare services saw significantly larger collision rates than the major cities in the study.
Two of the most prominent skeptics are Uber and Lyft when it comes to the study. They question the methodology and also claim that their services have reduced drunk driving, a common cause of severe and fatal crashes.