Uber claims to drive down DWI rates in Austin

When it comes to drunk-driving accidents and arrests in Austin, Uber says they've helped cut down on the problem.

But does the Austin Police Department agree?

There has been a decline in DWI arrests. APD says they can't attribute it to any one cause.  What we do know, is that ride-sharing options are available now more than ever. 

As police work daily to keep drunk drivers off the road, Uber claims to be doing the same thing.

"I think a lot of people, particularly young people, they don't even think about driving if they're going to have something to drink. They can just press a button and get there safely and get home," says David Plouffe, Uber's Chief Advisor.

Kaden Norton has seen it first-hand working as a part-time Uber driver.  He has picked up several people leaving the bars but another rewarding experience for him, comes the day after.

"On the flip side to that, a lot of times on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I will pick up people at their homes and drive them back to their cars because they made the decision that night to not get in the car and drive," says Kaden Norton, part-time Uber driver, Attorney.
The average time to get an Uber in Austin is down to three minutes. They can pick up anywhere throughout the city.

"If you look here in Austin, or really all over the country, you see as bar closing times approach, is generally when you see DUI's increase, you see Uber requests spike," says Plouffe.

The Austin Police Department tells FOX 7 that from June 2013 to May 2014, there were more than 6,200 DWI arrests.  From June of 2014 to May of this year, that number decreased to around 5,900.    

It's really hard from a departmental standpoint to say that it is the one factor that has driven down the numbers. I won't say it hasn't contributed because it very well may have. Anytime you can get someone another ride and they have that opportunity and they took that, then that's great," says Detective Michael Jennings, Austin Police Department, DWI Enforcement Unit.

"No refusal" initiatives, staffing and weather could also be factors that led to the decrease.
Detective Jennings says their DWI numbers fluctuate every year. APD just created a third DWI team this summer. Now they have seven night a week coverage instead of five, which could possibly lead to an increase in numbers.

"You will never catch every single person out there. It's not something you can arrest your way out of. What we really have tried to do is change the culture and change the mindset," says Detective Jennings.

Uber believes they are helping in that change.