The Cost of Convenience: Ridesharing and Traffic Fatalities

November 2018
John M. Barrios, Yael V. Hochberg, Hanyi Livia Yi

We examine the effect of the introduction of ridesharing services in U.S. cities on fatal traffic accidents. The arrival of ridesharing is associated with an increase of approximately 3% in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents. This increase is not only for vehicle occupants but also pedestrians. We propose a simple conceptual model to explain the effects of ridesharing’s introduction on accident rates. Consistent with the notion that ridesharing increases congestion and road use, we find that its introduction is associated with an increase in arterial vehicle miles traveled, excess gas consumption, and annual hours of delay in traffic. On the extensive margin, ridesharing’s arrival is also associated with an increase in new car registrations. These effects are higher in cities with prior higher use of public transportation and carpools, consistent with a substitution effect, and in larger cities and cities with high vehicle ownership. The increase in accidents appears to persist—and even increase—over time. Back-of-the-envelope estimates of the annual cost in human lives range from $5.33 billion to $13.24 billion per year. 

The working paper can be found here.

View working paper on SSRN.