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June 14, 2017

An Ohio judge is ordering drunk drivers to download Uber as part of sentence

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Any effort to tackle drunk driving has to be a good thing, though we’re not sure how many repeat offenders will request a ride when they need to.

Convicted drunk drivers who escape jail time are likely to lose their license for a time and be told to pay a hefty fine. Face justice in a court near Cleveland, Ohio and you could also be ordered to download Uber and Lyft to your smartphone as part of your sentence.

Judge Michael A. Cicconetti of Painesville Municipal Court is thought to be the only judge in the country insisting that drunk drivers sign up to the ride-hailing services so that they might reach for their smartphone instead of their car keys next time they guzzle down one too many.

Cicconetti has been giving out the order since May to those caught driving under the influence, the HuffPost reports.

“There’s nothing crazy about it,” Cicconetti told local media outlet News Herald when asked about his creative approach to dealing with drunk driving. “It’s just common sense. Now that we have the technology and most people have the ability to do that, why not make it part of their sentence?”

He added, “It doesn’t cost anybody anything to install it and activate it, and it’s far cheaper than paying the thousands of dollars you’d have to pay for another [offense].” It’s not clear, however, how many repeat offenders will remember they have Uber as an option when they’re three sheets to the wind.

Still, the judge said he believes courts across the country should follow his example, though he was keen to point out that he’s not done any kind of deal with the companies concerned: “I’m not promoting Uber or Lyft. I have no monetary interest in Uber or Lyft,” he said, adding, “In the next 20 years, they’ll have self-driving cars anyway so we won’t have to worry about it.”

Uber and Lyft occasionally promote their services as a safe way for sloshed car owners to get home at the end of a big night out. A couple of years back, a marketing stunt by Uber involved a special kiosk set up in downtown Toronto that was essentially a breathalyzer linked to Uber’s network of local drivers. Late-night revelers passing by the kiosk were encouraged to blow into it and, if they were drunk, were offered a free ride home courtesy of the service.

In the run up to last year’s Fourth of July celebrations, the San Francisco-based company partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement agencies in 25 cities across the U.S. to publicize drunk driving alternatives, and also offered discounted or free rides in those cities on the day itself.

Not to be outdone, Lyft teamed up with Budweiser for a few months last year to offer free rides home on weekends for plastered partygoers in some parts of the country.

While the data appears to be mixed for studies looking at the impact of ride-hailing apps on drunk driving, Judge Cicconetti, for one, will be hoping his unusual court order will start to show positive results.




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