Drowsy driving contributes to far too many auto accidents in South Carolina. The National Sleep Foundation considers driving while fatigued to be just as dangerous as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. This is why we welcome Uber’s recent announcement that it will now require its drivers to take breaks and get needed rest.

The ridesharing company announced its new mandatory break rule in February. Under the rule, any driver who has worked for 12 hours must go offline for a minimum of six hours before the driver can log on again. The company’s software will track driving time and automatically go offline when a driver meets that time limit.

Today, you can find Uber drivers throughout South Carolina, as the Post and Courier reports. Given the high number of Uber drivers on our roads, this new rule should have an impact on traffic safety in our state. Hopefully, it will prevent needless accidents, injuries and deaths.

Why Should Uber Focus on Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving presents a serious problem in South Carolina and throughout the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 846 people died in drowsy driving accidents in 2014 alone, while South Carolina Department of Public Safety statistics show that, from 2014 to 2016, drivers who were fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel caused, on average, 564 total crashes per year, including 221 crashes that resulted in injuries or deaths.

Of course, these are just the cases we know about. Drowsy driving may contribute to far more injuries and deaths than reported. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study suggested that most national statistics which are based on crash data and driver self-reporting are flawed and lead to an underestimation of the problem of drowsy driving.

In light of these facts, Uber’s move to require a mandatory rest period is an important one. It is a timely one, too. Recent news reports indicate that Uber drivers had been spending way too much time on the road. Some drivers in urban communities were logging on for 100 hours or more in a given week, according to the New York Post.

How Could Uber’s New Break Rule Prevent Drowsy Driving Crashes?

People drive while tired for many different reasons. Some do it because they need to get somewhere and don’t have time to stop. Others do it because they are in a constant state of fatigue from exhaustion and overwork. They may not even recognize that they are dangerously fatigued.

However, for many Americans who fall asleep at the wheel, drowsy driving is a part of their job. Professional drivers such as truck drivers and Uber drivers earn their money by the mile or by the trip. So, they have a financial incentive to keep driving – even past their breaking point. This creates a dangerous situation in which money serves as an incentive to be unsafe.

Under the new Uber working hours restrictions, drivers cannot take paying rides once they meet the time limit. The Uber software will automatically tally the driver’s work hours to ensure that, once the driver reaches the 12-hour limit, the driver can accept no more rides through the app until the driver completes the six-hour break.

The new rule is similar to trucking regulations that have long been in place. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service rules, truck drivers can work no more than 14 hours in a given day. After the 14 hours passes, a driver must go “off the clock” for a reset. Additionally, during that 14-hour period, a driver may not drive more than 11 hours.

Some Uber drivers may find it hard to adjust to the way the rule works. As the Washington Post explains, the 12-hour time period is cumulative, not consecutive. Once an Uber driver takes his or her first trip of the day, the clock starts ticking. So, even if the driver takes no more trips for 10 hours, but takes another one later, the six-hour reset begins exactly 12 hours from the start of the first trip earlier that day.

As a result, the rule tends to create a regular work schedule for people who may have become Uber drivers so they could avoid such a schedule. However, as they adjust to the new rule, these drivers will hopefully come to realize that it ultimately increases their own safety as well as the safety of their passengers and others on the road. In fact, due to drowsy driving accident concerns, a mandatory rest period may become the norm among ridesharing companies.

What Can You Do If You are in an Uber Accident in South Carolina?

If you are involved in an auto accident with an Uber driver in South Carolina, you should know that you have rights. Whether you were an innocent passenger in an Uber vehicle or a driver or passenger in a vehicle that an Uber car struck, you have the right to seek full and fair compensation for your injuries and losses, including funds to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, emotional distress and more.  This is also true if you are an Uber driver that is injured by a negligent driver.

Car accident claims that involve ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft can present complex insurance issues. This is why you should not try to pursue the claim or deal with insurance companies on your own. Instead, you should seek help from an experienced South Carolina auto accident attorney. The attorney will know how to protect you and pursue the maximum amount in your case.

Our South Carolina Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You

If you or someone you care about suffers injury in an Uber accident, contact Joye Law Firm to receive a free consultation about your case. With offices in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Clinton, we can meet with you right away to review your case and the legal options available to you.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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