NEWS9 Special Assignment: Ride-sharing services


Uber, Lyft, ride-sharing services.

You've heard of them, but so far they're not in our area. In West Virginia, they're still illegal.

Many cities across the country say they have cut down on drunk-driving deaths and arrests. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving has paired up with Uber.

So what's the deal? Why can't local residents benefit? And could it help reduce drunk-driving problems?

While a DUI could cost you a lot of money and your license, it could be even worse.

"There is nothing worse than a life being lost as a result of a DUI," Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. "It's just something so stupid and any one of us could be impacted for the rest of our lives."

Schwertfeger says while DUIs aren't up, the department is seeing more and more aggravated DUIs - people at almost twice the limit.

"The BACs have been astronomical," Schwertfeger said. "It's very, very dangerous situation for someone to get behind the wheel when they are that intoxicated or impaired."

The chief says officers are cracking down, and they are working on getting more checkpoints and patrols to arrest impaired drivers.

Uber thinks it can help.

"You may have read an article recently, the commissioner of the DMV credited ride-sharing companies like Uber for the dramatic reduction in drunk-driving deaths over the last few years," said Annaliese Rosenthal, general manager of Uber.

She worked alongside MADD to produce a report called, "More options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices."

Among the findings: drunk-driving crashes fell 6.5 percent among drivers under 30 in the markets where Uber operates.

"From the rider's side, it is simple, you open an app, drop your pin where you location is, you see who the driver is and them coming toward you in the app," Rosenthal explained. "No money is exchanged. Your credit/debit card is entered, and at the end, both parties rate each other."

She says Uber has already been working and lobbying in West Virginia.

Groups like the state's Convention and Visitor's Bureau are also behind the company doing business in the Mountain State.

Locally, Wheeling reps say they have used the tool when traveling and see the need when marketing the area to tourists.

"Let's face it, although people view Wheeling as a small city, Ohio County alone is large, and to get from one place to another is not convenient to get dropped off, so if you have dinner and wine, an alternative would be nice," said Olivia Tominack Litman of the Wheeling CVB.

Meanwhile, many have gone to the CVB and other leaders, voicing their concerns about transportation needs.

Schwertfeger looked at some of the statistics and says if Uber works, anything is worth saving lives.

"My take on the issue would be this," he said. "Any alternative to driving impaired is a good alternative."

The issue has passed through the W.Va. House and Senate.

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