Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn was joined Wednesday by Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and East Aurora Police Chief Shane Krieger in hailing the arrival of ride-hailing as a means to make roads safer and save lives.
The bill to bring the car service to Buffalo and other upstate communities was approved by the New York State Legislature in April, and was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Ride-hailing will begin locally on Thursday.
Flynn has been a strong proponent of the service as a way to keep roads safe from drunk drivers.
"Ride-hailing and ride-sharing are game changers for our community," he said. "Being able to get a lift with the ease of using your phone is not only convenient, but vital in lowering the number of drunken driving crashes. People who have had too much to drink and no cash to catch a taxi can now find an easy, safe and reliable ride home."
"I am thrilled that ridesharing has arrived in Erie County, and the option it provides individuals not to drink and drive," Howard said. "I have spent a career in law enforcement and have been at fatal crash scenes involving an impaired driver, and I know that any option is better than driving drunk. If ridesharing can save a life, then all this effort has been worthwhile. If ridesharing can reduce the number of DWI arrests and alcohol-related crashes, then all this effort was worth it.
"Last year, my office made 254 DWI arrests, and I am hoping this year we can reduce that number, because ridesharing is now available in Erie County. And if you drink, please drink responsibly, and never drink and drive."
The societal benefit of ride-hailing services has been researched around the country.
A Temple University study done by two students from the Fox School of Business released in January 2015 found drunk-driving deaths decreased by an average of 3.6 percent to 5.6 percent in California cities after the introduction of ride-hailing in 2009.
A report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving in San Francisco released in January 2015 found 78 percent of respondents said friends are less likely to drive home after drinking where ride-hailing services are operating.
A report from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles released in January 2016 found alcohol-related driving deaths dropped 22 percent across the state in 2015 with the presence of ride-hailing services.
Conversely, a report from KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas, found DWI arrests spiked by 7.5 percent over the previous year in the month after ride-hailing services left Austin.
In Erie County, the number of felony DWI arrests has been on the rise since 2013, when 549 were recorded. In 2014, there were 566 felony DWI arrests. The number of arrests jumped to 576 in 2015 and there were 592 felony DWI arrests in 2016.
"My administration has been proactively pushing for expansion of ride-sharing beyond the New York City area for over two years, so I'm very pleased it's about to become a reality," Brown said. "This additional transportation option will foster continued economic growth by encouraging people to venture downtown for dinner or a night out with the peace of mind that they can get a ride home reliably and safely. In addition, our residents will greatly benefit from the flexible economic opportunities that come with being a driver on a transportation network."
Those who want to use the ride-hailing service need to download the company's smartphone app and set up an account. The app will find one's location or one can enter the address where one wants to be picked up. Then, a driver is sent. No cash is exchanged. The company pays the driver with the billing information provided in the account.