by Shyam Allard

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While many parents of current University of Florida students have reportedly slept easier knowing that Uber has been acting as their partying child’s designated driver, it is still unclear whether the presence of Uber in the Gainesville area for the last year has made student life less dangerous.

Although Uber claims to be “helping make streets safer from drunk driving,” a recent study by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “the deployment of Uber services in a given metropolitan county had no association with the number of subsequent traffic fatalities.” The conclusion of this study, nevertheless, is hard for some people to believe.

Gainesville Police Department Spokesperson Ben Tobias is one of these people.

“I think Uber is one thing that’s made Gainesville safer,” Tobias said. “They’ve indirectly helped us by reducing the amount of drunk drivers that are out on the roadway.”

Mukunda Rico, 28, who is a student at Santa Fe College and drives for Uber in his spare time, agrees that Uber’s impact on Gainesville nightlife has been a positive one.

“You don’t need designated drivers anymore,” Rico said. “I’ve definitely taken drunk people home that are probably over the limit [alcohol].”

Uber rider Amanda Powell, a 25-year-old Registered Nurse at UF Health Shands Hospital, gave Uber good grades from a woman’s perspective.

“I think it’s probably safer for people, especially young girls, to get home if they’re staying out late at night,” Powell said. “The background check, from what I understand they [Uber drivers] go through, is quite extensive, even more so than a normal taxi driver, so I feel like younger women feel even safer using an Uber and are more apt to use it than they would a taxi.”

Among other things, Uber also claims to be “energizing the local economy,” with which Rico seems to concur.

“It’s creating a job for me,” Rico said. “I’m in school full time, I work a part-time job, and working a $10 an hour job, even full time, is barely enough to pay for your classes and live a modern student lifestyle.”

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