Innovative ride-sharing companies are an important transportation option for residents and visitors in our state. Ride-sharing is popular in the Twin Cities, where hundreds of thousands of rides are taken each year in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the number keeps increasing. Thousands of Twin Citians are drivers for ride-sharing companies, working flexible hours and earning money on their own terms.

But right now, the vast majority of ride-sharing rides take place in the metro area. Now is the time for Minnesota to join 45 other states that have passed statewide ride-sharing legislation, providing a single set of statewide rules for companies like Lyft and Uber. Doing so would ensure that ride-sharing will continue to thrive and grow, across all of Minnesota.

Most people know how convenient, affordable and safe ride-sharing is. But many might not know about the significant benefits for our local economy. People who use ride-sharing go out more often, stay out longer and spend more, generating additional revenue for local businesses. An economic impact report released by Lyft found that the Minneapolis-St. Paul economy saw an additional $26 million in 2017, thanks to the growing accessibility of Lyft rides.

Drivers appreciate the ease of use and flexibility. You can turn on the app and pick up passengers when you want to earn extra income and turn it off when you’re working another job or spending time with family. Drivers in the Twin Cities come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Lyft’s survey found that 18 percent of drivers own their own business, 27 percent are women and 35 percent are from a community of color. Most — 93 percent — drive fewer than 20 hours per week, using it as a convenient way to supplement their incomes and connect with residents and visitors in our region.

Ride-sharing also benefits public safety. Studies have shown that ride-sharing takes drunken drivers off the road, preventing crashes and saving lives. Ride-sharing also reduces assault and disorderly conduct arrests, helping to make communities safer.

The research paper “Ride-Sharing, Fatal Crashes, and Crime” studied ride-sharing in more than 150 cities. It found that fatal crash rates dropped by 6 percent on average after the introduction of ride-sharing in a city and that nighttime fatal crashes dropped by 10 percent.

The impact on drunken driving was even more dramatic. The authors wrote, “Depending upon specification, DUIs are 15 to 62 percent lower after the entry of [ride-sharing]. The average annual rate of decline after the introduction of [ride-sharing] is 51.3 percent per year for DUIs.”

Bringing ride-sharing to all of Minnesota won’t just benefit drivers and business, it also will help everyone on the road by improving public safety.

A broad coalition of business organizations, nonprofits, local restaurants and hospitality venues, drivers and passengers has come together under the banner of “Minnesotans for Ridesharing” to support the passage of statewide legislation this year. The bill is currently being considered in Minnesota House and Senate committees. Please encourage your legislators to help bring 21st-century transportation options to our entire state by supporting statewide ride-sharing legislation.

Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Dee Williamson is an entrepreneur and local Lyft driver. They are members of the Minnesotans for Ridesharing coalition (ridesharingmn.com).