Sleepiness and fatigue are inherent safety risks in the ridesharing industry today, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has warned. According to a Reuters news report, the academy, in a position paper, has called on ridesharing companies, government officials, medical professionals and law enforcement officers to address drowsy driving as a public safety risk. The statement was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine to call attention to the growing popularity of ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft and the regulatory and safety issues that have yet to be addressed.
Lack of Adequate Regulations
Fatigue is an inherent risk for those who work in the industry because many work second jobs for Uber or Lyft. Some may be driving at night after a full day’s work when they should be sleeping. Also, ridesharing companies don’t screen these drivers for medical problems such as sleep apnea that diminish alertness. Some ridesharing companies now require rest periods after extended driving shifts, but it can be hard to enforce and does not adequately address driver safety, researchers say.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that just between 2005 and 2009 there were more then 83,000 car accidents involving drowsy drivers. In about 20 percent of crashes, driver fatigue is a factor. As drivers spend more time without sleep, the crash risk escalates. According to a recent AAA Foundation study, even missing two hours of sleep can leave drivers as impaired as drunk drivers.
Uber has implemented safety procedures for drivers including requiring them to take a six-hour break for every 12 hours of driving time. Similarly, the Lyft app mandates a six-hour break for every 14 hours the app is in driver mode. The academy has recommended formal federal regulations for the ridesharing industry that mandate rest periods, limit hours of service and encourage drivers with sleep disorders to get the treatment they need.
Putting Safety First
As we already know, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. While it is a good thing that people are able to supplement their incomes by working in the ridesharing industry, it should not come at the cost of their safety, the safety of their passengers or that of others on the road.
It is not clear if Uber, Lyft and other companies are actually looking into whether their drivers are taking the mandated breaks. Our California car accident lawyers are in favor of federal rules such as those that exist for the trucking industry where drivers are required to electronically log the hours they work. This might help ensure that rideshare drivers are actually getting the rest they need before getting behind the wheel.