The state of Oklahoma thinks Uber customers should be penalized for playing it safe. After all, if they are not drinking and driving, they should be giving more of their money to the state.
A new Oklahoma House initiative seeks to increase prices on ride-sharing customers to pay for government programs claiming to be fighting drinking and driving. The proposed legislation, House Bill 1143, would “ask” companies such as Lyft and Uber to add a new charge during periods the apps are popular, known as “surge pricing” hours. The firms would then pass this added charge along to the state.
Hoping users will be completely OK with paying an extra 20 percent to find a driver in rush hour, state lawmakers hope to send the extra dough to the Department of Public Safety, which would then create drunk driving prevention programs. These “programs” include putting more cops on the streets so more checkpoints are put in place. But DUI checkpoints are practices that undoubtedly violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as officers are stopping all cars on the roadway whether or not they have a reason to believe drivers are breaking the law.
Whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against this notion or not, it’s clear DUI checkpoints are nothing but a systemic violation of Americans’ right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” And yet, OK lawmakers want Uber riders help pay for them.
Oklahoman Lawmakers Have No Right To Penalize Ride-Sharing Users
Whether lawmakers admit to it or not, adding an extra charge to an already costly ride is a way to penalize those who use the app instead of driving, whether because they don’t own their own cars or because they are intoxicated and prefer to follow the law.
In the real world, this added cost will translate into fewer riders choosing to use the app on rush hour and fewer riders choosing to do the right thing. In other words, they will stop using Lyft or Uber when going out to drink.
In Oklahoma, where locals are twice as likely to be killed in drunk driving accidents as folks in other states, creating a perverse incentive to put more drunk drivers in the street through legislation isn’t just dumb, it’s irresponsible. Unfortunately, lawmakers are seldom persuaded by reason.
According to the bill’s author, Rep. Merleyn Bell (D-Norman), adding an extra charge would make Uber and Lyft “committed partner[s] in ensuring that more Oklahomans get home safely whether that’s during surge charge pricing or not.” But what’s more likely to happen is that these apps would be creating fewer incentives for Oklahomans to be safe.
Will the lawmakers who support this bill ever admit they were mistaken when their brilliant idea doesn’t produce the desired results?