Rideshare companies are not reducing OVIs in Ohio, data says

Posted at 2:49 PM, Feb 28, 2020

NORWOOD, Ohio — Rideshare companies are not lowering the number of people arrested for driving drunk or on drugs in Ohio, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Highway Patrol OVI arrests in the eight Southwest Ohio counties counted have hovered between 2,000 and 3,000 since rideshares came to the area in 2015, according to a Highway Patrol report.

But according to a state trooper and an attorney in the state, rideshare companies still have a positive impact when it comes to drunk driving.

"They have helped," said Lt. Chuck O'Bryon of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

"I think Uber is doing its job," said defense attorney Kelly Farrish.

"Unfortunately, not everybody is using them," O'Bryon said.

Both men have theories about what's helping – and not helping – to reduce the OVI numbers.

Farrish said enough people are using Uber and Lyft to make a difference, explaining that they reduce the number of potential OVI drivers on the road.

"The people who go out for a wedding anniversary dinner and they want to have more than the one or two drinks that they normally have … take Uber and Lyft to protect themselves. It only make sense," Farrish said. "So those people aren't on the roadway anymore and they would be the people that would stand out on I-275 going 72 in a 65. So those people are removed from the pool and so then they have to look at the people a little more closely."

Heavily inebriated drivers now have a better chance of getting a trooper's attention, Farrish said. But both men say the drunk drivers they see don't get as drunk as they used to.

Farrish said he has more clients with lower blood alcohol levels and better sobriety tests on video to present to juries.

"What I'm seeing on the videos is people appear to be in better shape than what I had seen historically," the attorney said.

O'Bryon agreed, saying that people troopers stop are blowing lower levels.

"Are people testing two and three times the legal limit for alcohol? Yes, they are. But it seems that that's the exception and not the norm," O'Bryon. "It seems to be more and more of the impaired-driver arrests are closer to the per se limit."

The Highway Patrol is now separating OVI arrest numbers into categories: drug-related or alcohol-related. They want to see if opioid drug abuse could be keeping the numbers steady.

Last year, 622 OVI arrests were drug-related, and more than 2,200 were alcohol-related.

"We are very interested in seeing how things go as far as the impairment levels and the different types of drug usage," O'Bryon said.

This story was originally published by Courtney Francisco on WCPO in Cincinnati.