Ridesharing is defined as a service that provides one-way transportation on short notice. The most prominent ridesharing companies are Uber and Lyft. These enterprises developed a business model that uses cell phones or internet-based applications which allow individuals to be picked up and driven to a destination in exchange for a fee. These companies differ from a taxi service in that Uber or Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles to transport clients instead of using a company-owned cab.
Since Uber’s inception in 2009 and Lyft’s in 2012, the popularity of ridesharing has grown exponentially. With ridesharing thriving, there is increased potential for accidents. If an accident does happen and a passenger is injured, insurance rules for compensation can be complicated and confusing.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the intricacies of being in a ridesharing accident. Let’s start with the basics.
What is ridesharing?
Technically, ridesharing is a mode of transportation in which multiple people travel together in the same vehicle. Examples of this are buses, trains, subways, carpooling, etc. The purpose of ridesharing is to reduce overcrowding highways.
However, with the arrival of companies such as Uber and Lyft, not all rides are shared. To be precise, Uber and Lyft are Transport Network Companies (TNCs). These companies connect commuters with drivers who offer driving services using their own cars. This commuter/driver connection is made possible through the use of a smartphone-based platform. For this article, when we use the term “rideshare,” we are referring to TNC companies such as Uber and Lyft.
Let’s take a look at some statistics.
Ridesharing accident statistics
A 2019 research brief by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago attempts to quantify the impact of ridesharing on fatal accidents. Here are some key takeaways:
– Ridesharing apps have offered new options for riders and drivers alike.
– Ridesharing has also increased the number of vehicle miles traveled.
– While there are clear benefits to ridesharing services, the increased number of vehicles on the road has led to a rise in the number of traffic accidents and fatalities.
– Fatalities have increased about two to three percent annually since the introduction of ridesharing services.
There is scant public information or statistics about non-fatal ridesharing accidents available. Uber issued a report in 2019 that details the number of fatalities; however, the report omits any mention of non-fatal accident statistics. Lyft has not published any accident-related data at all.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
“. . . in the first nine months of 2020, which includes about six months of data during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities rose 4.6 percent from the first nine months of 2019. At the same time, vehicle miles traveled fell about 14.5 percent. This led to an increase in the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled to 1.35, up from 1.10 in the same period of 2019.”
How rideshare companies work
Rideshare companies consider themselves to be a third party that connects people who need transportation with drivers. They state they are not transportation companies but rather technology companies that bridge ride seekers to car owners.
Rideshare drivers are considered to be independent contractors and, therefore, do not receive employee benefits. This employee status and other operational practices seem to be more about revenue than safety.
Rideshare companies often employ pressure tactics.
Rideshare drivers complain of constant pressure to stay on the road. They are sent in-app prompts to keep them driving. An example of this type of psychological pressure was given in a Slate article:
“For years, ride-hail apps have also sent out frequent nudges to incentivize workers to get or keep on the road. For example, when a tired Uber driver working near Penn State University tried to go offline at 4 a.m. one morning in 2015, a playful in-app notification from Uber popped up to say, “YOU’RE $1 AWAY FROM EARNING $40. Don’t stop now; keep driving!”
Another tactic used by these companies is to cut the driving fees periodically, telling their drivers that this will ultimately benefit them because more people will use the cheaper driving service. However, the real impact of this is to keep drivers on the road for more extended periods.
Both Uber and Lyft now have a 12-hour shift limit, but there are ways around that.
Rideshare drivers are given little to no training.
Uber has no training requirements for its drivers. They do offer a training course, but the drivers have to pay for it out of their own pockets, plus they have to be off the road for four hours while they take the course; many drivers just cannot afford this.
A Forbes article tells of a new driver who signed up for the Washington DC area. He states that he was shocked to find that all he had to do was get his driver’s license and some paperwork approved and watch a 13-minute video, then he was put on the road. He said:
“When I got to one of the onboarding sessions at a local hotel, it was like, ‘Here’s your papers, go to the other room, get your phone, and great—get on the road and drive.’”
Lyft does have a training requirement which consists of six short videos that take approximately 20 minutes to view in total. The videos cover things like proper interactions with passengers, reporting safety issues, sexual misconduct, etc. Drivers are blocked from working until these videos have been viewed.
The condition of the vehicle is the responsibility of the car owner.
Both Lyft and Uber require vehicles to:
– Have four doors
– Pass any state or company inspections
– Have no cosmetic damage
– Have working headlights, taillights, brake pad/shoe thickness, tire tread life, etc.
How old the car is allowed to be will depend upon in which state it is being driven. An important thing to note is that all car repairs or upkeep are the car owner’s responsibility. This fact leads to questions such as: Is the car inspected regularly? Are any repairs required actually done? Is the upkeep of the vehicle up to date? Have all repairs been done correctly? The point here is poorly maintained cars can lead to accidents.