Any driving carries inherent risks of an accident. Operating a heavy machine at a high rate of speed can do serious damage to others and all it takes is one little mistake to cause an accident. Anything that distracts a driver or causes them to lose focus can increase the risk of an accident. Rideshare driving may involve a number of these higher risk factors, putting passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians at risk of an accident.
If you were involved in an accident with a rideshare driver, talk to a lawyer about your rights. The attorneys at accidentdenver.com will investigate your case, handle the rideshare company, and work to get you the maximum compensation after an injury accident in Denver. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Distracted Rideshare Driving
There are a number of distractions that can take away a driver's attention from the road. With phones, mobile devices, and audio navigational, drivers have more electronic distractions than ever before. Some common causes of rideshare driver distractions include:
- Texting while driving,
- Making phone calls while driving,
- Looking at caller ID to see who is calling,
- Fidgeting to pick up the phone or earpiece to answer a call,
- Map navigation,
- Rideshare app notifications,
- Notifications of police or accidents ahead,
- Changing the radio station,
- Selecting songs on a music app, or
- Watching the passengers in the back.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver distractions can take away our attention in a number of ways, including:
- Visual distraction: Tasks that require the driver to look away from the roadway to visually obtain information;
- Manual distraction: Tasks that require the driver to take one or both hands off the steering wheel to manipulate a control, device, or other non-driving-related items; and
- Cognitive distraction: Tasks that require the driver to avert their mental attention away from the driving task.
According to research from the University of Utah, the odds of getting in a crash are four times higher when motorists talk on handheld or hands-free phones. This means that drivers on the phone, even hands-free devices, are as impaired as drunk drivers.
Phone and Tablet Apps
There are a number of apps that drivers use when driving for Lyft and Uber. Rideshare drivers cannot even operate their vehicles if they are not using the rideshare app. The Lyft or Uber app for drivers provides a lot of information that drivers may have to read or review while working with Lyft or Uber, this includes:
- Making the driver available or active on the app,
- Reviewing rider requests,
- Accepting the fare,
- Directing the driver to the pick-up location,
- Matching up the passenger,
- Directing the driver to the drop-off location,
- Making any en-route changes or shared-ride pickups,
- Dropping off the passenger,
- Rating the passenger, and
- Going inactive on the app.
Rideshare companies tell drivers that they should do all these things when they are safely stopped so they won't be distracted. However, common sense tells most people that these drivers are multi-tasking while driving, which means they are distracted from putting their full attention on the road.
Texting and driving is prohibited in all states but Montana. More than half of all states have some hand-held phone ban but Colorado is not one of them. Colorado's cellphone ban only applies to drivers under the age of 18.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), any use of a cell phone may increase the risk of a crash. An estimated 5% of drivers are talking on a cellphone at any moment of the day. Other surveys have found a substantial increase in the use of manipulating phones while driving.
Navigation Apps for Lyft and Uber Drivers
Many Lyft and Uber drivers use navigation apps for getting around between rides. Popular navigation apps include:
- Google Maps
- Apple Maps
- Built-in Vehicle Navigation Systems
Rideshare drivers see these apps as necessary to do their job. However, navigation apps can be just as distracting as texting and driving.
Music Apps and Radio Adjustments
Many rideshare drivers ask passengers about their music preferences or passengers may ask the driver to change the music or turn it down. The driver may be using a traditional radio with a knob, but more often, the driver is using an app to stream music or play music, such as:
- Apple Music
- Android Play
Searching for music, scrolling through apps, changing the station, or adjusting the volume all means taking the driver's attention off the road.
Talking to Passengers Can Be a Distraction
Talking to passengers can be a cognitive distraction. It can also be a visual distraction if the driver is at passengers in the back seat. Many drivers and passengers are chatters. Uber has even introduced a “Quiet Mode: if you need to respond to emails or are in the mood for a nap, make your trip a quieter one with just one tap.”
Drivers for Uber and Lyft don't have an option to select a quiet mode for passengers. A chatty passenger can take the driver's attention away, especially when pointing out things in the area, suggesting different directions, or asking to make a stop along the way.
Many rideshare drivers work late at night or in the early morning hours. Rideshare drivers may be putting in hours to make extra money before or after their regular jobs. This can leave a lot of drivers feeling tired or drowsy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowsy driving is a major problem in the U.S. and is estimated to be responsible for up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year.
Drowsy driving has a direct impact on driving ability. According to the CDC, feeling sleepy, even if you do not actually fall asleep
- Makes you less able to pay attention to the road,
- Slows reaction time if you have to brake or steer suddenly, and
- Affects your ability to make good decisions.
Inexperience and Lack of Training
There is no experience requirement for becoming a Lyft or Uber driver. If you are licensed to drive in any state, you can become a rideshare driver in Colorado. Other professional drivers, such as truck drivers, bus drivers, and cab drivers spend a lot of the time behind the wheel and may undergo specific training and testing. However, the so-called “training” required for Lyft and Uber drivers is very limited. Uber and Lyft training focuses on how to use the app, and tips and tricks for driving for the company.
For Lyft, drivers are required to be licensed, at least 21 years old, and have one year of experience as a licensed driver. Uber has the same requirements but drivers under 23 must have three years of driving experience. That's about the extent of the experience necessary to drive passengers around Colorado with a ridesharing company.
Many rideshare drivers are relatively inexperienced and are not familiar with all the traffic laws in Colorado. Some of the drivers may have had their driver's education or training decades ago or in other states, and may have no idea about the traffic laws and rules-of-the-road in Colorado. Inexperience, lack of training, and unfamiliarity with the state's traffic laws can make for a dangerous situation for Lyft and Uber passengers, pedestrians, and anyone else on the road.
Inexperience can be a risk factor in auto accidents. According to the National Safety Council, inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes. While practice makes perfect, a year of driving does not produce a perfect driver. Some of the most common errors that accounted for inexperienced driver accidents were:
- Lack of scanning the roadway,
- Driving too fast for conditions, and
- Distraction by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Increased Hours on the Road
With an increased amount of time you spend in a car and the more miles you drive, there is an increase in the risk of an accident. Rideshare drivers may spend a lot more time on the road than their passengers would if they drove from point A to point B. Rideshare drivers have to drive from wherever they accepted the ride, to the pick-up location, to the drop-off point, and then to the next pick-up point, and so on.
Rideshare drivers spend a lot of their time driving around or waiting for a ride request. This is known as “deadheading,” which refers to the time when Uber and Lyft drivers are driving around without a passenger or en route to a pick-up. According to an article in the Denver Post reported the amount of deadheading time was at least 40% of the time Lyft and Uber drivers were active on the app.
Impaired Driving from Alcohol or Drugs
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous, but it is also a crime. Alcohol impairs the driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely, including slowing their reaction time and reducing hand/eye coordination. A driver may not be openly drinking a beer while driving but you do not know what the driver was doing in the hours before you get picked up for an Uber or Lyft ride.
Alcohol can stay in the system for hours. The old rule about a person processing one drink per hour is just an estimate. Alcohol affects each person differently and each person absorbs and processes alcohol uniquely. If a driver was out partying the night before, they may still be impaired in the morning. A cold shower and lots of hot coffee may make the driver feel more awake but it does not take away from the impairing effects of alcohol on the body.
Drugs can also have an impairing effect on the body and the individual's ability to safely operate a vehicle. Just because a drug is prescribed to a patient does not mean that the person can safely drive when under the influence of the prescription medication. The combination of alcohol and drugs can increase the impairing effects for drivers.
For years, Colorado law has allowed adults over the age of 21 to legally purchase marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use. While many people claim they can drive fine under the influence of marijuana, it is still against the law to operate a vehicle while impaired by any drug. The legal limit for driving after smoking marijuana is 5 nanograms or less of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of blood. Anyone with 5 or more nanograms of THC in a blood test can be arrested for DUI. There may be nothing wrong with someone getting high at home or with friends. However, a Lyft or Uber driver who is high may be putting your safety at risk.
Finding Out if the Driver was Distracted or Impaired
After an accident with a Lyft or Uber driver, the injury victim may have no idea if the driver was distracted or impaired at the time of the accident. The rideshare driver may admit to looking down at their phone at the time of the accident but it is more likely the driver will lie and claim they were not distracted at the time. This is where your Denver auto accident lawyers can help.
If there is any chance the other driver may have been distracted, your lawyer can request the driver's phone records or social media records. Using this information, your lawyer may be able to see what the individual was doing at the time of the accident, if they were texting, talking on the phone, or posting videos to social media. Similarly, there may be evidence that the driver was drinking alcohol or doing drugs shortly before the accident.
Denver Auto Accident Lawyers
The attorneys at accidentdenver.com have successfully represented drivers and families in Denver, Boulder, Aurora, and throughout Colorado who were involved in an automobile accident with a rideshare driver. Our experienced attorneys understand how the insurance and rideshare companies operate and will fight to get the maximum compensation available for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.