Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft have changed the way people use transportation across the country and around the world. While Uber has operations in several different counties outside of the United States, Lyft solely operates in the U.S. and Canada. Many people use these services daily due to the ease of access.
Though Uber and Lyft are currently the two most popular ridesharing apps, they have also been linked to a rise in traffic deaths. According to a 2018 study conducted by The University of Chicago and Rice University, the arrival of ridesharing services precipitated a 3% increase in motor vehicle fatalities and other fatal accidents. In addition, both ridesharing apps have been linked to a number of dangerous scenarios, including improper screening of drivers and assault on passengers.
Causes of Ridesharing Accidents
Just like any other vehicle accident, ridesharing accidents can occur for a multitude of different reasons. However, passengers and other drivers remain at risk because of the lack of regulations for rideshare companies. These companies certainly come with their own complications, some of which have been highly scrutinized, including:
Improper driver screening and training
Unlike taxi cab services, which provide a complete background check on all drivers, Uber and Lyft’s driver screening process has been heavily questioned. In many cities, taxi drivers must undergo FBI background checks and specific training before they can legally pick up any passengers. Though ridesharing services claim to provide comprehensive background checks of their drivers, this isn’t always the case. There have been multiple reported incidents of sexual assault by rideshare drivers.
Ridesharing drivers are just as susceptible to being involved in an accident as anyone else on the road. Drivers for Uber and Lyft need to use their phones’ map services to drive passengers to their specific destinations and to pick up new rides. Many drivers use the map services on their phones without audio, which is illegal in many states.
Speeding and disregarding traffic laws
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding kills over 9,000 people per year. Ridesharing drivers are no strangers to the practice of speeding during their pickups, as the pressure of getting passengers to their destinations quickly can cause a driver to exceed the speed limit, putting others in danger.
In addition to speeding, failing to abide by traffic signals, signs, and laws is another common cause of ridesharing accidents. All drivers have an obligation to obey traffic laws and ensure the safety of their passengers. If a driver fails to follow all traffic laws and regulations, their negligence could cause injury or death.
Typically, ridesharing drivers do not have as much experience behind the wheel as taxi drivers do. According to Texas law, ridesharing drivers must be at least 21 years old, have a valid drivers license, and pass a driving history and criminal background check. Beyond that, however, only one year of driving experience is required.
Taxi drivers, on the other hand, are required to obtain a service permit for the area in which they plan to drive that should be renewed every two years. Additionally, under federal law, taxi drivers must also obtain a security badge in order to work in high-traffic areas like airports. This process requires an additional background check and fingerprinting.
Driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drowsy driving causes 1,550 fatalities each year, according to the National Safety Council, and roughly half of all drivers admit to driving while drowsy. Even if drowsy drivers stay awake behind the wheel, they have slower reaction times and lack the ability to completely pay attention to the road.
Many ridesharing drivers continue using the apps and picking up riders even if they are tired. In the past, large ridesharing companies have even offered drivers guaranteed payments for driving at least 60 hours per week, in addition to bonuses for completing a certain number of trips within a set period of time. Incentives like these push drivers to continue picking up passengers even when they are exhausted.
Rideshare Assault and Violence
Ridesharing background checks have been highly criticized and inadequate. In fact, while 30,000 Massachusetts drivers passed Uber’s initial background check, they failed the screenings conducted by the state.
Sexual assault is an alarming problem among ridesharing companies. More than 3,000 cases of sexual assault were reported during Uber’s 2018 U.S. ridesharing trips, including 235 rapes as well as unwanted touching, kissing, and attempted rape.
Passengers have also reported multiple instances of sexual assault and rape while ridesharing with Lyft. The company has faced dozens of lawsuits by women alleging they were raped or sexually assaulted on rides booked through the app. Reportedly, Lyft only refunded the women for their rides, while disabling the drivers who committed these acts only until the situation was resolved.
Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape are chronically underreported; thus, current figures from both Uber and Lyft likely do not account for the full scope of ridesharing sexual offenses. Though these apps now have various safety features that allow a passenger to directly contact authorities if a ride appears suspicious, the effectiveness of these features has not yet been determined.
All reputable ridesharing companies require their drivers to have their own auto insurance coverage. Since the drivers are independent contractors, they are required to carry their own insurance coverage in addition to the coverage provided by Uber or Lyft. Being classified as independent contractors rather than employees makes it difficult to hold ridesharing companies liable for the behavior of their drivers.
Rideshare companies provide liability coverage for drivers, but that coverage depends on what the driver is doing at the time of the accident. Drivers are not covered until they turn the app on and begin accepting requests. Once they log in, the ridesharing companies are only required to offer limited coverage, with policy limits of $50,000 per person, $100,000 per incident, and $25,000 for property damage. After the driver accepts a ride request, coverage increases to a minimum of one million dollars per incident.