The bulb moment for neurosurgeons arrived as they were making patient visits one morning in 2017.

“What we realized was that we weren’t doing as many emergency surgeries on Friday and Saturday nights at two in the morning,” Christopher Conner recalled with a smile from his hospital in Houston, the fourth. largest city in the United States.

“It’s probably because of Uber.”

A study of the app-based ridesharing service by researchers at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center validates the theory and was published on June 9 in the scientific journal JAMA Surgery.

It shows that using Uber and similar services in Houston reduced the number of traffic accident patients at the city’s two major Level 1 trauma hospitals, plunging 20.1% to 1 527 in 2019 against 1,911 in 2007, despite an increase in the population.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the change is even more pronounced, with the number of these patients dropping 23.8% since Uber entered the market in February 2014.

– An alternative at home –

The data shows that the reduction in the number of car accident victims applies to only one demographic group: people under 30, with a 38.9% drop in cases between 2013 and 2018.

Why? Members of this youth group are heavy users of Uber and competitor Lyft.

These apps provide an alternative for parties when partygoers might otherwise get behind the wheel while impaired, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.

“Since MVCs (motor vehicle crashes) are the leading cause of death in this age group, the increased use of carpooling services plays a role in preventing preventable injuries,” the study said.

For Conner, 35, the strength of the study lies in the use of two particularly reliable data sources.

– Granular data –

The statistic of 23,491 traffic accident admissions at the two Houston trauma centers dates back to 2007.

Most of the previous studies looked at “datasets that looked at deaths,” Conner said. His research focused on all patients with road accidents in hospitals.

“If they only suffer from a dislocated shoulder, they are included. If they have a very serious accident and unfortunately died, they will also be included,” he said.

The second data set in the study consisted of statistics provided by Uber on more than 24 million trips.

“We were able to see how many traumas were happening on an hourly basis and how many trips were happening on an hourly basis,” Conner said.

“And because we had that kind of temporal granularity, it meant we could do some really powerful testing.”

The researcher also looked at data regarding 248,485 arrests for “impaired driving”.

The numbers were stable until Uber entered the Houston market. They then fell, especially for cases taking place at the end of the week, with 1,089 convictions for such arrests on Friday in 2018, or 17.7% less than in 2007.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauded the new study.

“We knew from the start that carpooling helps to limit drinking and driving,” National President Alex Otte told AFP. “We knew that, but it’s really good to have the data to show it.”

Houston is a car-centric city due to its low density and large size – 16 times that of Paris – which creates difficulties in establishing an efficient public transport system.

The Uber study will be extended to other cities.

str / acb / bgs



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