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Do Uber Drivers Increase Risk of Auto Accidents? What you need to know about the danger of Uber’s unregulated system

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Uber drivers are at risk of working dangerously long shifts, according to a recent article in USA Today. Without any workplace regulations in place, there is nothing stopping drivers at the start-up rideshare app from driving well beyond what is considered safe, and there are plenty of incentives for them to continue driving even when their body is perilously in need of rest. An increase in Uber-related auto accidents can be expected if no new internal or legal regulations are put in place to require mandatory rest for drivers of services such as Uber, as are already in place in the taxi industry. 

Uber incentivizes long shifts

For drivers of the popular app, pay rates are variable and subject to change at any time. A ride that normally pays $10 can increase to $20 or more during surge pricing hours, which can put a lot of pressure on drivers to keep working for the increased pay even if they have already logged in a full shift. On top of this, Uber provides further reason for its drivers to go for long shifts that threaten potential auto accidents. Often times, they earn bonuses from the company for picking up a certain amount of riders within a given timeframe, meaning that the 30th ride of the night might be worth more than all of the previous ones combined due to the large cash bonus that comes with the milestone. Because of the incentive to continue driving, Uber drivers find themselves making a choice between safety and profit every time there is a prolonged surge rate in effect. Naturally, many choose profit, putting themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the road at increased risk of injury from auto accidents stemming from their sleep deprivation. 

Uber drivers are underpaid

Uber has advertised itself as a great opportunity to earn good money, but the reality is that their drivers are underpaid for the service they are providing. An average Uber driver earns nowhere near the hourly rate of pay of a traditional taxi driver, and some struggle to make even the federal minimum wage, which currently is at $7.25 an hour. Additionally, drivers have to account for myriad expenses such as fuel costs, car insurance, and vehicle upkeep. As a result, drivers are anxious to earn enough to live on and look for any chance to increase their take-home pay. When rates temporarily increase, Uber drivers will take advantage of the situation to increase their hourly pay regardless of the corresponding increase in auto accidents. If rates remain high for many hours at a time, drivers become more and more impaired by their lack of sleep and rest catches up to them. 

Current regulations of Uber drivers inadequate

The taxi industry is already highly regulated regarding the number of hours its drivers are allowed to work at a time. Drivers of passenger-carrying commercial vehicles are not permitted to operate for any longer than 10 hours in a row, according to federal law. Before drivers can return to their cars, they must take a mandatory break of eight hours to get proper rest in order to avoid auto accidents. Similar laws are in place for the airline and truck-driving industries as precautionary measures. In the case of Uber, though, the law has been slow to catch up to the technology. Uber is not regulated as a common carrier, and thus does not fall under the legal category that requires taxi companies to abide by the regulation. Like in the Wild West of a previous era, many of the new innovations coming out of Silicon Valley exist in a lawless domain. This is to Uber’s benefit, but the company may be well-served to take its own precautionary measures. 

Lyft, Uber’s main competitor in the rideshare app market, has voluntarily created internal regulations for its drivers that limit the number of hours they can drive consecutively as a safety measure against potential auto accidents. After 14 hours of driving for the service, Lyft forces its drivers to quit the app for at least six hours before they are allowed to continue picking up riders. This is less than is required by federal law for taxi drivers, but it is an improvement to the non-existent rules in place for Uber drivers. The obvious flaw of such a system, however, is that there is no safeguard in place to prevent a Lyft driver from switching to the Uber app during the mandatory rest period. Indeed, many drivers use both services to maximize the amount of profit they can make, going from one to the other depending on which is providing higher pay rates at the moment. Without government regulations to prevent drivers from working consecutive hours without rest, there is a grave risk of increased auto accidents as a result of these services. Already, some cities have taken proactive measures. Chicago, for example, limits drivers of rideshare apps to 10 hours total driving per day, and New York requires drivers to comply with the existing laws on the books for taxis. 

Danger of Uber drivers real

Without any regulations in most locales, there is a real risk of increased auto accidents as a result of tired Uber drivers. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease reaction times and increase poor decision making, resulting in accidents that could be avoided with better precautionary measures. Uber drivers provide a real service to communities that lack adequate public transportation, but they are also a potential hazard to road safety. Many auto accidents are avoidable with simple changes of behavior, and in the case of Uber the change needs to come from its corporate headquarters. With simple internal regulations, Uber can proactively prevent potential auto accidents caused by lack of adequate rest for its drivers. Whether as a result of a sleep-deprived Uber driver, a drunk driver, or simply a bad decision, no one should be left without recourse in the case of a serious auto accident. 

Uber recognizes the problem by requiring their drivers to be covered under their insurance plan. Everyone should be aware that in an auto accident with an Uber driver, whether they are in a separate vehicle or an Uber passenger, they may have been covered. While the regular vehicle insurances and Uber’s might get involved, it can be a complicated procedure to make a claim.  The auto accident attorneys at GOM Law in McAllen, TX can help you solve this issue. If you or loved ones were involved in any such auto accidents, please contact our accident attorneys to learn more about your rights.

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