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Has ridesharing increased alcohol consumption?

Posted on 06-23-16 in Research, Substance Abuse

Alcohol consumption in the U.S

Alcohol consumption in the U.S. is on the rise. In 2012, over 8 percent of Americans were considered heavy drinkers. Over 18 percent met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) criteria for binge drinkers. This article explores the correlation (if any) between increased alcohol consumption and the increased use of ridesharing services.

The rise of ridesharing

Uber began operation in 2009, while Lyft opened in 2012. According to Uber, they’d delivered a total of 1 billion rides by the end of 2015. Lyft has nowhere near Uber’s market share but is making inroads. John Zimmer, Lyft president, says the company tripled the number of rides in 2015 over the 2014 total. As of this year, Lyft has over 300,000 drivers compared to 100,000 last August.

With the popularity of ridesharing exploding over the past few years, one might expect that this would affect the public’s driving and alcohol consumption habits.

Measuring alcohol consumption

Unfortunately, other than anecdotal evidence, data relating to the effect ridesharing has on drinking behavior is lacking. The two standards relied on most to assess alcohol consumption and motoring are driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and DUI-related traffic accidents. In Los Angeles County, DUIs are down. According to the California Highway Patrol (as cited in the Los Angeles Times), there were 1,000 fewer DUIs in 2014 compared to 2013. But over the same time period, in some areas of the country, DUI-related crashes increased.

Another metric for measuring alcohol consumption is the alcohol beverage tax. The California State Board of Equalization maintains data on how much alcohol beverage tax is collected each year. The board also charts how much alcohol is consumed in a fiscal year and how much alcohol is consumed per person. In the fiscal year 2012 to 2013, the total revenue from alcohol tax in the state was over $352 million. From 2013 to 2014, revenue increased to over $358 million. For 2014 to 2015, revenue was up over the prior year by $357,000.

Over the same time period, Californians consumed nearly 680 million gallons of beer in fiscal year 2012/2013. This increased to nearly 706 million in 2014/2015. Over these three fiscal years, Californians consumed less wine containing 14 percent or less alcohol but more containing over 14 percent. They consumed more sparkling wine, but cut back on distilled spirits in 2015 (down about 160,000 gallons over the year before).

Empirical data

As one can see, statistical and empirical data are wanting which connect increased alcohol consumption to the rise in popularity of rideshare services. Los Angeles police are not convinced that Uber is responsible for a drop in DUIs. The Los Angeles Times relied on anecdotal evidence from bartenders and restaurant employees to substantiate its story that more rideshares leads to more drinking. Because of the dearth of data, we conducted a small survey of restaurants and bars in San Clemente, Califonria. We asked bartenders and restaurant managers if they have seen a rise in drinking directly relatable to ridesharing. Here are the results:

  • Sarah, bartender at Oles, said some people drink more but most drink about the same
  • Kyle, manager at Vine, replied he has not seen any increase in the amount patrons drink
  • Dillon, manager at Cellar, notes more people use ridesharing instead of driving or taking taxis but he can’t say for certain people are drinking more or, if they are, it’s because of Uber or Lyft
  • Stacey, bartender at Knuckleheads, also said more people use rideshares but she hasn’t seen any change in drinking behavior among her customers
  • Scott, manager at San Clemente Wine Company, said he has noticed customers will have an extra glass of wine if they’re using a rideshare. He qualified this by adding no one leaves his establishment falling down drunk

Even if someone is taking a rideshare service, if they are unable to control themselves around alcohol, it is a problem. For those who cannot control their drinking, Sovereign is here to help. Sovereign Health Group treats the disease of alcoholism. We treat the physical ravages of the disease and the underlying psychological reasons driving a person to engage in self-destructive behavior. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or another form of substance abuse, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.