City, Lyft launch partnership to curb drink driving

Each year, there are more than 10,000 crashes on Seattle streets, resulting in nearly 20 fatalities. On average, anywhere from one-third to one-half of those deaths is the result of impaired driving.

“It’s a public safety issue that we absolutely need to tackle,” said Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) director Scott Kubly.

As part of Seattle’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030, Lyft has committed up to $75,000 worth of discounted ride value to Seattleites to offer a safe way to get home after a night out.

On Dec. 30, SDOT, Mothers Against Drunk Diving, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Lyft officially launched the “You Drink. We Drive” partnership at The Comet Tavern (922 E. Pike St) in Capitol Hill.

“The nightlife industry in Seattle drives billions of dollars of economic activity every year, and it’s really important that it not only be vibrant but also be safe,” said Dave Meinert, local restaurateur and co-owner of The Comet.

Lyft Seattle general manager Todd Kelsay called his company’s involvement in the effort “a no-brainer.”

“Our core values are critical to us, and they really insist that we behave in a way that improves the communities that we live and work in,” he said.

Starting Dec. 30, discounted ride cards will be handed out at bars and clubs in select Seattle neighborhoods and at major citywide events. Once redeemed, those cards provide $10 off each of five rides in targeted areas between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. for both new and continuing Lyft users.

Along with Capitol Hill, the cards will be distributed to bar-goers in Fremont, Pioneer Square, Belltown, Ballard, South Lake Union and the University District. Those neighborhoods were chosen for the program based on data collected over the last five years that showed higher frequencies of impairment-related crashes in those areas, compared to the rest of the city.

“Unfortunately, every year, we generally start out with an impairment-related fatality on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day,” Kubly said.

The hope is that with this partnership, this year wouldn’t begin on such an inauspicious note.


Measuring success

Kubly said, with the success of rideshare companies like Lyft, there’s an opportunity to make more progress to curb drunk driving than in the past.

While the city will compare collision data taken before and after the start of the partnership to evaluate the program’s efficacy, SPD East Precinct Capt. Paul McDonagh said success won’t only be measured by hard numbers.

“I think if we can show that we’ve given rides to a number of intoxicated people who otherwise implied that they were going to be driving, I think that’s the win,” McDonagh said. “It’s just like the designated-driver program: We don’t know how many people we’ll save, because we can’t count that, but there’s still a value when the friends say, ‘Oh, no, Paul shouldn’t have been driving because he was drinking, and we drove him home’ — that’s a win.”

McDonagh said the program feeds into the other efforts to combat drunk driving — including education efforts encouraging people to identify and use designated drivers — but this gives the business community a chance to further reduce those numbers.

Though this partnership is specific to Lyft, Kubly said the city is open to further partnerships, but that the company approached the city in this instance to get the program started.

And while the concept is new, Kelsay is confident that it’s going to make a big difference.

“It’s unique in this country,” he said. “It hasn’t been done before, and I am absolutely certain that it’s something we’re all going to be really proud of.”

To learn more about the Vision Zero plan, visit

To redeem your discounted rides, go to

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