A look at Austin DWI data ahead of Uber, Lyft vote

Car with Uber sticker. (KEYE TV)

Thursday at 7 p.m. Austin City Council will take up regulations expected to impact whether or not transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft continue operating in Austin.

The city says they're looking out for Austinites' safety by requiring fingerprint checks that prove TNC drivers are who they say they are, but Uber and Lyft drivers say rules that drive TNCs to leave town will only make the streets less safe by putting more drunk drivers on the roads.

"Without Uber and Lyft will the streets really be safer? I say no," says Anthony Nguyen a driver for both Uber and Lyft. Nguyen is convinced TNCs are helping fight Austin's DWI problem.

"If this passes and Uber and Lyft go away, the streets of Austin will not be safer. There will be more drunk drivers on the roads," Nguyen says.

There's no denying DWIs are a problem in Austin and statistics show them declining year-to-year.

In 2013, before the onset of TNCs in Austin, the city saw 6,419 DWI arrests. Last year there were 6,235 DWI arrests. So far in 2015 there have been 5,686 DWI arrests, but Austin police say you can't draw conclusions from those statistics alone.

"We cannot directly attribute one mode of transportation as being better than the other," says APD detective Richard Mabe.

Police say fewer DWI arrests don't necessarily mean there are fewer drunk drivers on the road. It can mean people just aren't getting caught or it can mean more people are making responsible choices.

"Every night people get arrested for DWI. That's just the unfortunate part of it," says Mabe.

However, police do say the more options Austinites have to get home safely, the better.

"If there's Uber, Lyft, taxi cabs, whatever other means -- a designated driver in your group -- if that's a safe mode for you to get home ... that's what we're behind," says Mabe.

While DWI arrests are down, intoxication manslaughter arrests are up. In 2013 there were six arrests made in drunk driving deaths. In 2014 there were eight intoxication manslaughter arrests. As of December 15, 2015 there had been 11 arrests in fatal drunk driving crashes.

Additionally, in 2015 there have been seven reported sexual assaults by TNC drivers and three reported sexual assaults by cab drivers.

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