How Drowsy is That Rideshare Driver?

These days, a lot of folks are using the companies Uber or Lyft rather than calling a taxi when they need a ride. Such services are called ridesharing, and they are part of the “New Economy” you’ve read about. Ridesharing has spread rapidly across our country over the past few years because it’s often a lot cheaper than taking taxis.

According to the Uber and Lyft web sites, both companies have drivers providing service in the greater Columbia area, as well as in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Spartanburg, Greenville, and Clemson. Uber is the bigger company and is generally more geographically widespread.

However, ridesharing has come under fire because of the chance that your driver has been on the road for an extreme number of hours with only a nap and a quick snack here and there. At present, no regulation controls how long the drivers, who are independent contractors, are allowed to be behind the wheel.

One Uber driver told the story of how he noticed a way to more than double his wages. One day, for no reason that the Provo, Utah, driver could discern, rates jumped, giving him the chance to earn $20 per hour. The driver normally earned $8 per hour, on average. But because there was a chance for a big payday, he took rides for 20 hours straight. In order to explain why he did it, the driver said, “I felt trapped. I thought, ‘I might never see it this good again.’”

Lyft shuts off its driver app after 14 straight hours and keeps it off for at least six more. Uber does not.

How the System Works

Uber and Lyft both employ something known as “surge pricing,” meaning that they double, triple, or even quadruple what they charge based on demand. A snowstorm? A concert letting out? If you use a ridesharing service, it’ll cost you more to get a ride under such circumstances. That’s surge pricing. And it encourages drivers to stay on the road.

Uber also pays bonuses for making a certain number of trips in a specified amount of time. A writer for Slate magazine documented how her Uber driver mentioned he’d been on the road over 19 hours, with only one break for food and a quick nap. He was pulling the long shift in order to earn a bonus for 100 trips in a week, and it was his last day to log 100 pickups. In his area, doing 100 trips was worth an extra $350.

Psychological Pressure

Finally, Uber in particular is known to employ psychological means to convince drivers to keep driving. Some of the tactics used include:


In an article posted on Uber’s own web site, they mention study findings that 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness creates a cognitive impairment that’s the same as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. (In all states, 0.08 percent is legally drunk.) If you stay awake more than19 hours, your impairment reaches the legally drunk state, the study found.

What, then, to make of rideshare drivers who often drive 19 (or more) hours straight to earn bonuses and other significant amounts of pay?

A fatigued rideshare driver is just as dangerous on the road as any  fatigued driver. The paying passenger riding in the car is not the only one at risk—your next accident could be caused by an overtired rideshare driver running into you.

Listening hard. Working harder.

Have you been in a crash where a taxi or rideshare driver was at fault, either when you were a passenger in the car for hire or were in your own vehicle when you were struck? The South Carolina vehicular accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a vehicular accident in which the other party was at fault, South Carolina law entitles you to hold that party legally responsible for your medical expenses and vehicle repair bills, as well as any lost wages and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for pain and suffering or loss of comfort, care and companionship of a loved one. The deadline for filing a claim is already running, so contact the Louthian Law Firm for help by calling us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.