BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Recent polls have shown that many New Yorkers support the idea of making ridesharing services like UBER and Lyft legal in upstate New York. State lawmakers are debating legislation that would do just that. But now, a local prosecutor says this needs to happen quickly.
Erie County's new District Attorney is getting involved in this debate.
UBER and Lyft can operate in most cities. In fact, Buffalo is one of the largest cities in the country without them.
District Attorney John Flynn says making ridesharing legal here is a matter of life and death. He held a news conference Thursday to urge lawmakers to pass ridesharing legislation, saying it would keep drunk drivers off the road.
Flynn talked after Amherst resident Dennis Xenos was sentenced to two to six years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed his friend last summer in Buffalo.
Flynn said giving people who have had too much to drink the option to use a smartphone app to get a ride home will save lives.
“I'm not only speaking as a DA, I'm speaking as a father, too, because I have a 26-year-old son, I have a 24-year-old daughter there, and I have another son who turns 21 in April. And my kids are right in the age range of these kids, right here, who were in that car,” said Flynn. "My son told me that for a cab ride from downtown Buffalo to where we live in Cheektowaga is sometimes $50 to $60. That's one way. So, if you're paying $50 to $60 for a cab going from Buffalo to Tonawanda, and then you got to pay $50 to $60 to even get downtown in the first place, what young kid's got $100 extra in their pocket to spend on cabs?"
UBER and Lyft rides are typically cheaper than that. Taxi company owners have been fighting ridesharing here for years. They say the playing field isn't level because drivers aren't subject to the same background checks their drivers are, like fingerprinting.
A recent report out of Texas noted a dramatic decrease in DWI arrests in two communities near Dallas. Police there attributed the drop to the growth of ridesharing in the area.