Has Uber not heard about the dangers of fatigued driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 100,000 annual motor vehicle accidents are likely caused by a fatigued driver. Yet, the company behind the driver-for-hire app is vehemently against the 70 hour workweek limit for its drivers. Could it have anything to do with the launch of its new accident insurance policy?
Yes, you read that correctly – Uber wants drivers to be permitted to work more than 16 hours in a single day, and it wants to further profit by insuring those drivers against accidents that are sure to occur as a result. The insurance plan is being tested in eight states; Massachusetts is among them. In exchange for coverage in work-related accidents, drivers will pay a per-mile fee to Uber.
No Workers’ Compensation?
The question isn’t whether or not Uber drivers should protect themselves with insurance; taxi-related jobs have five times the death rate as other occupations. The issue is with Uber’s decision to charge drivers for medical care and lost wages rather than purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover all drivers. In addition, the benefits that will be provided by Uber’s accident policy will be less robust than those provided by traditional workers’ comp. According to press reports, the plan will cover up to half of the individual’s average weekly earnings, compared to workers’ comp benefits which cover up to 66 percent of lost wages.
Employees in other companies and industries get overtime pay, which acts as a deterrent to employers to overwork their staff. In addition, those workers are generally covered by workers’ comp. It is true that Uber’s drivers are independent contractors, not employees. However, state agencies in Alaska, California and Oregon have audited Uber, collected payroll taxes, and demanded real protections for the company’s drivers. A MA workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you are entitled to workers’ comp benefits.
The NHTSA conservatively estimates that fatigue results in about 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in financial losses every year. The statistics below provide further insight into this serious problem.
- Individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 are most likely to drive while drowsy.
- Men are more likely to drive while drowsy than their female counterparts.
- Adults with young children have a greater tendency to drive drowsy.
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study revealing that individuals who get six to seven hours of sleep per night have double the risk of a fatigue-related crash than those who sleep eight hours or more.
- A study in Australia revealed that a person who has been awake for 18 hours will have a level of impairment equal to someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05.
Other factors, including obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and conditions such as sleep apnea weigh heavily when calculating the risk of driver fatigue. However, one thing is certain; driving for more than 16 hours in one day is unsafe. Consider asking your Uber driver how many hours he or she has been working the next time you go for a ride. And if you work for Uber and were injured on the job, a skilled Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed. Continue reading