Teens throughout the South Orange-Maplewood community are downloading and using an app in droves — but it might not be the one you expect.
It’s Uber, the on-demand taxi service established in 2009 that provides cheap, convenient rides.
Using the Uber app, users can request a ride, monitor the exact location of their drivers, and can see how far away they are. Now operating than more than 461 cities, Uber has had a revolutionary impact on the transportation industry, and more specifically the lives of teenagers.
Throughout the South Orange Maplewood community, Uber has grown increasingly popular among high school students. Despite Uber’s rules that minors must be accompanied by an adult, both Columbia High School students and local teenagers utilize Uber regularly.
Uber has given teenagers a safe, inexpensive transportation option when attending social events and parties. Instead of driving drunk, walking home late at night, or receiving a ride from someone under the influence, local teenagers have a safe ride home right at their fingertips.
CHS student Jada West is an avid user of Uber and explained, “Teenagers use Uber mainly to get around places because their parents can’t drive them. It has become a substitute of students drunk driving. Now, after a party, people normally get Uber instead of calling their parents late at night.”
Another local teenager, Van Brantley, expressed that it grants him more freedom and the ability to stay out later: “Sometimes friends and parents are unable to give rides, so it’s nice to have a reliable source that can get you where you need to go no matter what.”
By providing these high school students with safe rides to and from parties, Uber could potentially create a far safer community free of drunk drivers and car accidents. According to the Uber website, the introduction of Uber to the city of Seattle has decreased the number of DUI arrests by 10%.
In addition to Uber, the club “SafeRides” at CHS offers local teens rides throughout the school year. The club’s goal is to ensure that CHS students do not drive drunk and have a safe and reliable ride. The 2016-17 club president, Katie Mackay, explained, “The purpose of SafeRides is to prevent anyone from driving to and from parties where they are planning to drink alcohol. Some might say it encourages drinking, but realistically people are going to drink regardless, so it’s important to have a way to get them home safely. This not only helps those who have been out drinking but also the rest of the community who are out on the roads.”
Recently, the hashtag “#JerseyLovesUber has been trending throughout social media sites and aims to shut down a potential bill sent to the New Jersey Senate in June. This bill would require far stricter background checks for Uber drivers, regular inspections of Uber vehicles, and for Uber to obtain operating permits from New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission.
Because this would cost Uber tens of thousands of dollars, this could potentially force Uber out of New Jersey forever.
Local teenager Mia Gladstone participated in this twitter advocacy, using the #JerseyLovesUber to express her desire for Uber to stay in the state. Gladstone explained, “I tweeted the hashtag to show my support for Uber in New Jersey and to help assure its presence remains in South Orange/Maplewood as well as the rest of the state. Uber is really important to me because I can depend on it at night when it’s dangerous to walk home and it prevents drunk driving accidents.”
Isabel Turi is a rising Columbia High School senior and lifelong Maplewood resident.