Suffolk opts in to statewide ride-sharing program

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HUNTINGTON -

It could soon be easier to get around Suffolk County thanks to a statewide ride-sharing program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a law allowing ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate throughout New York state, unless a county decides to opt out.

County Executive Steve Bellone on Tuesday announced Suffolk involvement in the program, despite the fact that the town of East Hampton has banned Uber and Lyft drivers for the last few years. Now the drivers will be able to operate on the East End and across the county without restrictions beginning June 29.

Anti-drunken driving advocates support the change in policy, saying the ride-sharing services make it easier for drivers who have had too many drinks to call a cab.

"This is something that appeals to the young as well as the old," says Richard Mallow, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving New York. "And it is an opportunity for us to end the scourge of drunk driving."

Suffolk estimates that allowing ride-sharing services to operate in the county will generate $57 million in wages and tips for drivers.

Nassau County is yet to make a decision about the ride-sharing services.

Syosset Taxi owner Bruce Terzano says cab drivers have to undergo drug tests that will not be required for Uber and Lyft. Uber admits that's true, but says its drivers still get plenty of scrutiny.

"The state mandates an extensive background check process where we check multiple databases," says Uber's Alex Anfang.

Uber also says it monitors driving records in addition to providing up to 20 times the insurance that a traditional taxi needs to have.

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