Although mobile-app based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft are changing the way we think about taxi service, there is some cause for concern because the business model for these services bases earnings on how quickly the driver can interact with a consumer’s request for service. Not only does this promote a highly competitive market, but it also encourages drivers to use technology while driving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) recently reported that distracted drivers kill nine people and injure over 1,100 more in the United States each day, and it’s not just texting and cell phone use at the root of the cause. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies three different types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive actions. Each time a driver looks away from the road, takes their hands off the wheel, or lets their mind wander off the task of driving, the risk of a serious or fatal collision rises dramatically. For an Uber driver, these risks are high because they are expected to run their business while they are doing their job, which requires visual, manual and cognitive distractions while they interact with on-board technology.
Here’s how the Uber system works: Uber is a mobile app-based in which consumers use their mobile device to log into the system and alert the driver to the location where they need to be picked up. The Uber driver receives the request via a dash mounted mobile device and has a mere 15 seconds to respond to the request before it goes to another driver. Most often, Uber drivers are actively transporting customers while the next request comes in, which forces the driver to take their attention off the road to respond to the request. It’s easy to see how visual, manual, and cognitive distractions take place in this corporate structure. Not only does the driver distraction put the consumer at risk, but this practice also endangers other motorists and pedestrians that come into their path.
Uber says it leaves the decision up to the driver to approve a request, but their earnings are based on their acceptance rate. Drivers who respond quickly and accept requests will make more money than the driver who waits until they are off road to review and accept requests. In any case, a Uber driver must make quick decisions on whether to accept a fare or not which typically requires them to frequently interact with the dash mounted mobile device used to communicate with the client and the company. A recent study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found clear evidence that car accident rates increase with the use of on-board mobile devices, in some cases causing more accidents than drunk driving.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking distracted driving seriously and have enacted laws aimed at combating the problem head on. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recently passed legislation that makes it unlawful for a motorist operating a vehicle to engage in hands on interaction with a mobile device. Though drivers are permitted to use hands-free devices, they are prohibited from touching the device to interact with its operation. In addition, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has introduced a bill that will impose second-degree felony charges for drivers who cause death or injury to another while engaging in “text-based communications.”
As Uber continues to grow and expand its services, safety experts predict that personal injury lawsuits will increase. Unless the company decides to modify its technology, drivers will be encouraged to engage in dangerous behavior behind the wheel. Passengers who rely on Uber to deliver them safely to their location will need to carefully consider its convenience in regards to their personal safety.
Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP take a firm stand against distracted drivers and are committed to securing the highest rate of compensation available to victims injured or killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers.
If you or someone you know has been injured or has died in an accident involving a distracted driver, call us at 1-800-222-8792, or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, Reading, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania allowing us to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.