You might think that stepping into an Uber is no more dangerous than stepping into a regular taxi, but you might want to think again. Most of us are willing to accept the risk that our Uber driver may not necessarily have the same qualifications or be held to the same federal standards as a taxi driver, but how does that really affect us anyway? Well, for one thing, Uber is under no obligation to regulate the amount of hours worked or length of shifts for its drivers in a given period of time. In fact, Uber’s policies incentivizing long hours for its drivers are likely contributing to increased drowsy driving accidents across the country.
If you or your loved one was injured in an Uber accident, contact a personal injury attorney. The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm represent injured consumers throughout Pennsylvania. Our attorneys may be able to take your injury case and fight for compensation on your behalf.
Effects of Tired Driving
It is a little known fact that drowsy drivers are responsible for just as many, if not more, car accidents as drunk drivers. According to The National Sleep Foundation, driving while sleep deprived can actually have quite similar effects on the body as consuming alcohol. Staying awake for 18 hours straight can cause you to drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05, whereas staying awake for a full 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .10 (over the legal driving limit of .08).
Drowsy driving is in some ways even more harmful than drunk driving. The distinction may lie in the fact that drunk drivers know what they’re doing is dangerous, while drowsy drivers may think that they are simply working hard. A drunk driver may still possess some alertness, even some awareness of their impairment, and drive more slowly and carefully to compensate. On the other hand, a drowsy driver can nod off while still speeding, forget to break, or have significantly decreased reaction times.
So, why has no one taken the steps to regulate the shifts of Uber drivers? Fatigued Uber drivers have been responsible for many car accidents across the country, and yet Uber has not imposed any national regulations on the amount of hours their drivers are permitted to work without rest. Lyft, one of Uber’s competitors, has such a policy in place. Lyft drivers are prevented from staying in driver mood for more than 14 hours. After a 6-hour rest, drivers may log back into the app. This is the bare minimum guideline—many regions using Lyft have imposed stricter standards. Although New York Uber drivers are subject to a regional 12 hour limit, the company provides no such national guidelines or suggestions to its drivers, beyond that of in-app reminders about the importance of taking breaks and getting enough rest.
Incentives for Longer and Later Hours
In fact, one could argue that some of Uber’s policies serve to encourage drivers to work dangerously long hours. According to Uber driver James Lindsay, Uber provides incentives to its drivers for completing a certain number of rides within a given timeline. Uber’s payment structure encourages drivers to strive for as many trips as possible, and even guarantees $2,000 in earnings to new drivers who spend at least 60 hours a week on the road. Additionally, rates for rides increase during peak times, such as Friday and Saturday nights, well into the wee hours of the morning. Drivers would typically be feeling fatigued during these hours regardless of the long shifts they have may have just completed, making these hours of the day especially vulnerable to drowsy driving accidents. During average workday hours (9 to 5), rates for passengers are often so low that drivers are forced to compensate by working longer and later hours. “I felt trapped,” Lindsey said in explaining his dangerously long shift. “I thought, ‘I might never see it this good again.’”
How does Uber manage to maintain these policies (or lack thereof) without any legal consequences? It could be because of a legal loophole. The rules for common carriers are governed by federal transportation laws requiring passenger-carrying commercial vehicles to drive for no longer than 10 hours at a time, and to take at least an eight hour break in between shifts. Though we might be tempted to think that we are under the regulated care of a common carrier when we step into an Uber, we actually aren’t. In fact, Uber assumes no liability for the safety of passengers and places it squarely on its drivers, who are considered independent contractors rather than employees. Because of this qualification, the company has no obligation to pay overtime or restrict working hours.
Uber’s decision to not restrict its drivers’ working hours is a cause for serious concerns for its patrons. Passengers have reported not only feeling unsafe in the care of visibly fatigued drivers, but at least one passenger was even asked to take over driving when his driver expressed that he was too tired to complete the trip. It’s important to keep these unsettling instances in mind when you decide to take an Uber, or any other unregulated driving app. Even if the New York “12 hours on/12 hours off” policy was expanded to other territories, drivers still have the ability to simply log out of Uber and immediately log into Lyft. Although you may be saving a few dollars by choosing these independent contractor apps over a regular taxi service, the policies that protect Uber and Lyft from liability may cause the risk to outweigh the reward. If nothing else, it is essential to take advantage of the in-app option to provide instant feedback on your driver’s behavior and demeanor to potentially warn others about drowsy drivers.
Work With Experienced Drowsy Driving Lawyers in Delaware County
If you or someone you love has been injured because of a drowsy Uber driver, the lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have the personal injury experience you need to successfully resolve your case. For a free and confidential case evaluation with an experienced Delaware County drowsy driving lawyer, call The Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online.