By KYLIE YEATMAN
The drunk driving-related death of former CHS student Annabelle Vandenbroucke in July has created a culture more aware of the effects of driving under the influence, catalyzing greater decision-making off-campus, while the availability of taxi-like apps, most popularly Lyft and Uber, have decreased DUI-related arrests, particularly among teenagers.
Though DUI-related arrests have seen a sharp decrease since 1982, with a total decrease of 80 percent, notable drops have been seen since 2011 when one of the first popular ridesharing apps, Uber, was launched.
“[Uber] is just really easy,” expresses one CHS junior, who recalls using the service on her way back from a party. “If you don’t have a designated driver with you…it’s better to be safe than have something really bad happen because of bad judgement.”
In the California Healthy Kids Survey, 14 percent of respondents statewide revealed that they had ridden in a vehicle among friends who had been drinking. In the 2009-10 survey, this number was at roughly 32 percent—a decrease of 18 points in less than a decade.
Though use of ridesharing apps to decrease drunk driving has been commonplace since the inception of Uber in 2011, various pitfalls including the cost of the service and the reliability of getting home safely may make it a difficult option when using the app alone. For this reason, teenagers often split the cost of a ride home or travel in groups to avoid potential harassment.
“Uber can be kind of shady,” advises one senior girl, noting concerns about assault. “I would take a friend with you, because you never know.”
Another senior explains, “If you split the cost, it’s not as bad.”
On a national level, DUI-related car accidents have seen a decrease over the last several decades, particularly among teenagers. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has reported a 68 percent decrease in alcohol-related car accidents in those under the age of 21 since 1991, with an overall decrease of 46 percent.
While it has been proposed by some students that the school aid in funding rides for students if they’re going to be drinking, it’s impossible for Carmel’s faculty to address the issue of drunk driving in a way that makes concessions that students are going to drink and inadvertently helps students in this endeavor. Policies regarding alcohol use at CHS make clear the school’s stance, with the school’s website offering various forms of intervention for teenagers.
Yet teenage drinking remains a prevalent issue, and one that falls on the responsibility of the student. Students often express doubt that drunk driving could result in risks, if it were even to happen at all.
“It’s hard to imagine anything actually happening until you’re the person in the situation where it does,” a junior says.
Teenage drunk driving statistics back this claim—2,433 collisions were reported in 2016 among the 16-19 age group and, simultaneously, teenage drivers were three times more likely to be involved in a collision, a statistic that only increases when alcohol comes into play.
“Given what I’ve seen other kids at school do at parties, I honestly don’t find those statistics really that surprising,” confesses one senior. “People can make bad decisions.”
The frequency of alcohol-heavy parties has a tendency to increase during holidays and weekends, with the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety reporting roughly 31 percent of drunk-driving fatalities occurring on the weekend. The majority of Ubers are called during the weekend, most notably between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. when the majority of intoxicated people are using the service.
In conjunction with this data comes a report from Uber itself which reveals that drivers for ridesharing services are most active during hours where drunk-driving collisions are occurring, referred to by the report as the “Uber effect.”
While conclusive evidence doesn’t point directly toward ridesharing apps being a catalyst for decreased drunk-driving rates, this is largely due to the relative novelty of these apps rather than mixed data. Postdoctoral research associate at the University of Southern California Noli Brazil warns against making sweeping generalizations regarding the impact of ridesharing apps, but concedes they might have an impact on an individual basis.