Democrats have been at war with the so-called gig economy for the past few years, directing particular wrath at ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, where drivers work when they please as independent contractors. Progressive lawmakers throughout the country — including in Nevada — have done the bidding of unions and taxi cartels by attempting to undercut these innovative business models through burdensome regulation.
But Uber and Lyft survive and have generated enthusiastic customer bases, making political opposition increasingly risky. In addition, such services have become essential in tourist destinations such as Las Vegas.
And now a new study shows that efforts to hamstring ride-sharing companies would probably have a major deleterious consequence: an increase in traffic deaths.
“We find a robust negative impact of ride-sharing on traffic fatalities,” conclude the authors of a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Based on conventional estimates of the value of statistical life, the annual life-saving benefits range from $2.3 to $5.4 billion” nationally. The study, which focused exclusively on Uber, estimates that such companies have reduced alcohol-related traffic deaths in the United States by 6.1 percent and total vehicle fatalities by 4 percent.
The bureau’s report dovetails with a June study published in the Journal of American Medical Association by University of Texas researchers, who found that Uber’s entry into the Houston market in 2014 led to a drop in “motor vehicle collision traumas” on weekends, particularly among those younger than 30. Overall, DUI and impaired driving arrests also fell significantly.
“Introducing ride-share services in the Houston metropolitan area was associated with significant reductions in (motor vehicle collision traumas) and impaired driving convictions,” the AMA study found. “Increased use of ride-shares may be an effective means of reducing impaired driving and decreasing rate of (motor vehicle collision) traumas.”
These findings should be a warning to congressional Democrats, who seek to stomp out ride-share companies and other innovative endeavors through the PRO Act. The legislation, which has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, is a wish-list of Big Labor’s priorities, which include regulating companies that use independent contractors — providing many workers with flexibility — out of business by driving up costs and greasing the wheels for unionization.
Imposing the PRO Act on the nation’s economy would shackle gig companies, resulting not only in fewer choices and greater inconvenience for consumers and less freedom for workers who want it, but also a likely uptick in drunken-driving and other traffic fatalities.