Does Uber Promote Distracted Driving?

Many Americans make use of Uber each year when they need to get from place to place. It is a convenient way to get around when you do not have your vehicle or need a ride home from the bar. However, Uber’s business model may promote distracted driving. We want to look into some commonly asked questions:

  • How could Uber drivers not get distracted?
  • Is distracted Uber driving a problem?
  • Does Uber promote distracted driving?

Uber distracted driving

How Uber works for drivers

When you press the button on your smartphone Uber app to take a ride somewhere, you generally have to wait a few seconds to be paired with a driver nearby. You get a notification of which driver is coming to get you, their photo, and what vehicle they are driving.

When an Uber driver goes “online,” and they are the closest one to you, the driver will receive a “driver alert” that will flash repeatedly and beep until the driver responds to the request. The driver can then tap on their screen to accept the trip, and they will receive your information, including your name, photo, and location.

This notification is the first of many distractions that drivers can face inside their vehicles. In many cases, Uber drivers are operating their vehicles when they receive the initial request and must look at and tap their phones to accept them.

How can this app be distracting for Uber drivers?

When a driver is on the way to drop off a fare, the app will often send them new trip requests as they approach their rider’s destination, allowing them to pick up new riders as soon as possible. A live map on the app’s screen will also show drivers the geographic areas where riders are requesting the most trips from. With both of these features, drivers are expected to look at and tap their screens while the vehicle is still moving. This can require an Uber driver to take their eyes off the road for several seconds.

Distracted driving is dangerous driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), looking at your phone for five seconds while driving at 55 mph is like closing your eyes for the entire length of a football field. This is about the amount of time that it takes an Uber driver to look at their phone to accept requests or check their map for directions. During the course of a ride, an Uber driver may check their phones multiple times.

Distracted Uber driving places drivers, their passengers, and all of those on the roadway around them in danger. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), distracted driving was responsible for 3,166 deaths and nearly 400,000 injuries on US roadways in 2017.

Uber driver distractions combine all three of the main types of driver distractions outlined by the CDC:

  1. Visual: looking away from the road.
  2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.
  3. Cognitive: thinking about something other than driving.

Uber drivers are pressured to act quickly when they receive requests and usually do not pull over before interacting with the app. Missing riders means losing money and declining too many rides can result in penalties through Uber. Uber has built a system that inherently requires distracted driving practices.