New research suggests DUI is decreasing as more people use rideshare services

New research suggests DUI is decreasing as more people use ride services like Lyft and Uber.

But Mothers Against Drunk Driving cautions against too broad a conclusion, because the study looked solely at arrest numbers. 

Data from ten major U.S. cities was examined: arrests two years before that city approved ride-sharing, and for two years after. 

"On the weekends, if I'm going out for a fun night, I'd much rather have an Uber or a Lyft," said 33- year-old Matt Owen of San Rafael. 

He was settling in to watch the Warriors game at a downtown bar, knowing his ride home is on his phone and second nature, when drinking. 

"It's not worth it, I'd rather pay twenty dollars than ten thousand dollars for a DUI," Owen told KTVU. 

Researchers found as use of ride share went up, DUI arrests went down: dropping by about a third in San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento.

Number decreased somewhat less- a 14 percent drop- in Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

"It's probably not really high-quality research with control groups and such, but I think the evidence is pretty strong," observed Dan Sperling, Director of the Institute of Transportation at UC Davis. 

Sperling says several studies point to the same conclusion: that ride-sharing is making streets safer from DUI, especially among young drivers- and at peak times - Friday and Saturday nights.   

"If you're drunk, you just press that button, and don't worry about paying," Sperling told KTVU. "That's all taken care of. Its very seamless and easy, and that's the reason it's caught on."

MADD credits ride-share with providing an alternative, and encouraging people to plan ahead.

But it stops short of celebrating the findings, because a decrease in arrests is not the same as a drop in DUI crashes, injuries and deaths. 

"Drunk driving deaths have actually have gone up nationwide for the last two years," said J.T. Griffin, MADD Chief Government Affairs Officer.

Griffin insists there is no substitute for strong law enforcement in curbing DUI by catching impaired drivers. 

"That really is the front line, so the number of arrests going down, is actually concerning to us, and that's something we're going to keep a close eye on at MADD."

Public awareness campaigns and sobriety checkpoints may also alter attitudes and behavior among drivers. 

But those who work at DUI screenings, can't help but notice all the ride-share vehicles coming through. 

"You see the sign on the car and you see the driver with the GPS up," described San Rafael Police Officer Tom Collins, "and you see the people in the back who've had a good time, and are still having a good time, but they're getting home safe." 

Collins wears a special pin on his uniform, awarded by MADD, signifying a high-number of DUI arrests, which he estimated in the hundreds. 

"DUI is still a problem, and will always be a problem," said Collins, "as long as people think they're okay, doing better than they actually are. And that's what alcohol does." 

Other cities studied: Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago , Denver and Philadelphia. 

Arrests dropped in every one, with Las Vegas seeing the biggest plunge: almost 40 percent.