Connor-Mulholland - MSM&C

Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Practice Areas: Motor Vehicle Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury

Does it matter how long your Uber driver has been on the road before picking you up? Are you entitled to a rideshare driver who is alert and rested? Turns out rideshare drivers do have daily drive-hour limits. But your Lyft driver may be exhausted before he even starts his shift. 

Main Reason for Imposing Drive-Hour Limits

Driving for rideshare companies is a numbers game. The more rides you take, the more money you stand to make. Drivers can be tempted to work long hours in order to make as much money as possible. Long hours driving without a rest break can lead to tired drivers and drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is a well-documented risk factor that can contribute to traffic accidents.

Drowsy driving is thought by some to be responsible for far more crashes than get reported. There are about 100,000 police-reported drowsy driving accidents annually, resulting in 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities. But some researchers say the actual number of accidents caused by drowsy drivers is well over 300,000, and drowsy driving fatalities are closer to 6,400. 

Drowsy driving has the following effects on drivers:

  • Lulls attention and awareness of road hazards and driving conditions
  • Slows reaction times
  • Mimics the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Makes it three times more likely an accident will occur

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has taken the position that ‘fatigue and sleepiness are inherent safety risks in the ridesharing industry.’ The AASM says the tendency of rideshare drivers to work during the evenings and after long periods of wakefulness puts drivers at risk for drowsy driving. Furthermore, the AASM points out rideshare drivers are not screened for medical conditions that could contribute to reduced alertness while driving.

How Rideshare Apps Keep Track of Driver Hours

When drivers log in to rideshare apps, the clock starts ticking. Popular rideshare apps Uber and Lyft have similar requirements concerning how long their drivers can be working before they must take a break and log off the app. States may establish more restrictive rules regarding driver hour limits, but Iowa follows the same policy as Uber and Lyft.

Both companies require drivers to log off for six continuous hours after being logged onto either app for 12 hours without a solid 6-hour break. The 12-hour period can be broken into shorter periods, but the clock will not reset until a driver has been off the app for at least 6 hours.

When a rideshare driver is nearing 12 hours of driving, the Uber app will prompt the driver to log off for the required 6-hour break beginning at 10 hours. If the driver does not log off the app, the app will log the driver off for 6 hours. 

How Much Information Do Riders Know about Drivers?

Rideshare riders really know nothing about a driver until the driver accepts their ride request. Once a driver accepts a ride, the driver’s profile will be available for the rider to review. A driver’s profile will include information about the driver’s ride history and ratings from previous riders.

Ratings and comments from past riders can be an encouraging sign that a rideshare driver is responsible and taking the appropriate time to rest between shifts. But there is no way for a rider to know whether a rideshare driver is properly rested before being picked up for a ride. 

Behind the scenes, rideshare drivers can have other full-time jobs. The majority of rideshare drivers are driving part-time as an additional source of income. Rideshare driving may be what drivers are doing with the extra hours they should be sleeping. Some drivers work for more than one rideshare company. They may log off of one app and log onto another – following the letter but certainly not the intention of drive-hour limit restrictions.  

Riders who suspect a driver may be too tired to drive safely can cancel a ride if they are uncomfortable after being matched with a driver. Riders using Uber are allowed to cancel a ride for any reason but may incur a cancellation fee depending on the reason for the cancellation.  

How Rideshare Companies may Encourage Driving Longer Hours

Restricting the number of hours a driver can work on a rideshare app without a break sounds like a legitimate attempt to make the rideshare experience safer for drivers, riders, and other motorists. But drive hour limits don’t account for the time spent off the rideshare app, and rideshare company policies can encourage drivers to continue driving when it may not be safe to do so. 

Rideshare company policies that affect how drivers are compensated can prompt drivers to keep working even when they are tired. If a driver is used to earning a certain amount and a company cuts the pay rate, the driver may feel compelled to work more hours to make up the deficit. 

drivers pushing their limits to meet these targets may inadvertently contribute to the rising number of distracted driving incidents in Iowa. To mitigate risks, some drivers are turning to technology like dashcams, which can provide evidence in the event of an incident, such as a semi-truck tire blowout. Yet, even with precautions, accidents happen, and the aftermath often involves navigating the complexities of medical bills and potential settlements. It’s in these challenging times that the value of legal guidance becomes apparent, and why many seek the counsel of attorneys who specialize in vehicular accidents to understand if there’s a need for a lawyer following a car accident.

Uber and Lyft also use the promise of greater financial rewards to motivate drivers to drive more. Both companies have incentive programs that provide bonuses to drivers who complete a certain number of rides within a particular time period. Typically only available to drivers in certain geographic areas, rideshare company incentives are designed to make sure there are enough available drivers to service the demand from riders. 

For drivers who count on the extra income to make ends meet, the promise of additional income for completing more rides may influence them to continue working even though they are fatigued. 

Unfortunately, limiting the number of hours a rideshare driver can be logged onto the app is no guarantee against drowsy driving. When rideshare drivers get into accidents, determining who or what caused the accident is an important element that can affect an injured rider’s ability to collect compensation. A Des Moines, Iowa car accident attorney experienced in handling Uber and Lyft accidents will investigate the cause of the crash and assist an injured rider in obtaining the best possible recovery for their losses. 

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