countryside uber

I find the national discussion on rural drink-driving laws to be a bit of an embarrassment for quite a few reasons. I’m from the countryside myself and while I live in Dublin now, I appreciate that there’s little to do in many parishes that doesn’t involve popping down to the local.

Going to the local and not having a pint? Unheard of.

Getting a taxi from your local? Often a nightmare.

Finding something else to do without the local? Nah.

So, why don’t we just relax this whole Uber-style service ban and have locals do it? Hear me out…

The Perceived Problem

The perceived problem down the country is there’s very little to do in the countryside with the exception of heading down to the local. The local pub is the hub where people come and meet each other for a pint and a chat. In recent years, laws have tightened around drink-driving. Here I need to call something out.

Drink driving laws can never, I repeat never, be to strict. People die on our roads because someone has a drink and gets behind the wheel of a car. It’s a selfish and needless loss of life that’s totally avoidable. To anyone who believes that drink driving laws are killing the social lives of those living down the country; good. While I want everyone to have a social life, that doesn’t come at the cost of more dangerous roads.

Full stop.

All that said, you’ll notice I said perceived problem. Drink driving isn’t the problem at all. It’s rural infrastructure.

Taxis in the Countryside

Some bigger parishes won’t suffer from this problem at all. Smaller ones almost certainly will. I never did because I was lucky enough to have a taxi driver also considered a family friend. Once I call them, I get a taxi. Loyalty gets rewarded which has lead to some interesting discussions on the way home around apps like MyTaxi and the likes.

However, the real problem down the country is that people feel like they have no alternative way of getting to and from the pub other than their own car. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a regular taxi driver who’ve they’ve built up years of a rapport with, to the point of calling them a family friend. In fact, many localaties will struggle to have a taxi driver arrive out to them on a call of a busy Saturday night.

Unfortunately, it does make sense.

Taxi drivers can boost their revenue by avoiding long haul trips from the town or city to the countryside to do a local job. In the time that takes, they could do three or four spins around the city making much more revenue. Can’t really blame the taxi drivers. So why don’t we relax the laws which make having a proper Uber system in place?

Countryside Uber

If the real problem is countryside transport infrastructure, why not allow a service like Uber to come into the market?

This would need to be done carefully. Uber came up against stiff challenges from traditional taxi services and was banned from allowing the public to effectively operate as taxi drivers. My suggestion would be to trial an Uber-style system in rural parishes. I really don’t want this system to remove taxi drivers, but it could relieve the pressure on taxi services in rural Ireland.

Some precautions would obviously need to be in place. Drivers would need to be vetted and have a roadworthy car. The service would need to be geo-restricted. By this I mean drivers could drop people anywhere but only pick up in rural areas where there’s a shortage of taxi drivers. Considering Uber does have access to taxi drivers too they may be able to gauge availability and trigger this private ride sharing system based on demand.

Would Uber Work in the Countryside?

So would the system work?

I’ve no doubt it would come up against the same resistance that Uber came up against in general here in Ireland. Still, the benefits of this system are manifold.

We’d be keeping drink drivers off the road.

Connecting rural areas and keeping social life going.

Stimulating rural economies and generating a local “gig economy”.

Keep the local pub ticking over with punters, confident they can move about the parish.

Allowing traditional taxi drivers to remain in high-profit areas.

I could be totally wrong. Maybe taxi drivers aren’t bothered by the long spins and if that’s the case, we don’t need this system. But such a fuss has been kicked up about drink driving laws in the country, I can only assume there’s a genuine issue hindering people from moving about of a Saturday night. Maybe this is the answer to everyone’s problems?

What did you think of that?