Evesham Township, a town in New Jersey, is experimenting with the idea of giving the intoxicated a safe way home in a new government-backed program. This is the first town to partner with the ride-sharing service Uber for the purpose of curbing drunk driving, and it’s creating a bit of controversy, as well as interest, in the town of 45,000.
“We began working with Mayor Brown through our national partner, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and realized it was the perfect opportunity to use our technology to help take drunk drivers off the road,” said Ana Mahony, general manager for Uber New Jersey, in a statement.
The program began last week, and is currently supported by 19 businesses that serve alcohol, meaning those who drink at said businesses will get a free Uber ride home. It’s funded by donors, so fortunately taxpayers won’t have to worry about covering a new cost. Officials are supporting it in the hope that it dampens drunk driving cases and the subsequent deaths that occur.
The town is also beginning to test a mobile app called “BeMyDD,” which would effectively let users hire a driver that could not only take them home, but their cars as well.
For reference, a total of 250 DUI arrests were made in the town this year, which is a town record. Businesses and non-profits alike are assisting the development of this program, saying the goal is to make it as easy as possible for people under the influence to press a button on their phone and get home safely.
“We’re dealing with people who might’ve had too much to drink, so we needed to make it so easy for them to open their iPhone and push a button,” Evesham Mayor Randy Brown said.
A test run of the program took place in September, giving a total of 350 people free rides home through town shuttles. From putting the program in place, DUI arrests decreased from a monthly average of 23 that year to just eight in September, which is a significant drop.
The program makes rides available in participating bars between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. seven days a week, and will continue until January 2, at which point the town will perform a re-evaluation.
Some have been questioning the possibility for abuse, saying that it may lead to people getting drunker than they need to because of the underlying knowledge that it will provide them with a free ride home. However, the service is definitely helping lessen the number of drunk driving fatalities in general, so it’s difficult to argue that it’s not beneficial. Uber is also considering expanding to other towns, according to Reuters, so it will be interesting to see the overall impact of a service that some may argue rewards alcoholism. What do you think?