Pitfalls of Rideshare Service Apps

When it comes to rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft the benefits to using them as a passenger may seem pretty obvious: a ride home when you’re too tired to drive; a lift to get you closer to your destination when a parking lot is full; a shuttle between a train station or airport and a hotel when you’re traveling… Unfortunately, these idealized use cases tend to blind many riders to the pitfalls and risks behind using a rideshare service.

In most cases, the rider doesn’t experience a problem, so we continue to believe these Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are safe, or a “safer” alternative to driving yourself. There are other factors that contribute to our perception of these services as safe, and one of the biggest is the suppression of information from the rideshare companies themselves. 

Let’s examine some of the most common pitfalls of rideshare service apps and what might make you think twice about deeming them as safe.

  1. You’re putting your safety into the hands of an average driver. This driver is an independent contractor who has most likely not completed any additional driver training to ensure rules of the road are followed and that you remain as safe as possible.  The driver could be aggressive, show signs of road rage, or simply be too distracted by the app on their phone telling them about their next pickup opportunity.  Typically, someone who is a professional driver has undergone additional training that highlights the differences between just getting in your car to run to the store and driving in a commercial setting. 
  2. The driver isn’t usually being paid fairly.  When all of the time and costs to operate are taken into account, many drivers say they earn less than minimum wage.  So if you feel like they’re in a rush to drop you off to go get the next rider, it’s probably true.  The drivers need to maximize their earnings which leads many to speed.  And we say this one all the time: speed kills.  The State tried to protect drivers by making them employees, but Proposition 22 (which was sponsored by Uber) reversed that.
  3. You have no control in-the-moment.  We have a team member with a service animal.  Although the rideshare services all have a policy that service animals are allowed provided that they, too, abide by the rules (which a real service animal will without any issues), the driver can still prevent you from entering their car for any reason by simply locking their doors and driving off.  She waited at a train station in Los Angeles where not one, not two, but three drivers refused her with her service animal.    Or they may pick you up and not take you to your destination.  They are behind the wheel and you lose your control. You can complain to the TNC, but that doesn’t mean anything will come of it, despite the fact that they have records of which drivers responded to your request in the rideshare app.  Yet another pitfall of rideshare apps.
  4. More traffic and impact on the environment.  Studies have been conducted and there is a statistically significant increase in traffic congestion brought on from these rideshare service apps – as much as 13.4% in San Francisco County.  This is also what leads many to believe rideshare is the root to the current rise in traffic fatalities.

These are just some of the many pitfalls of rideshare apps.  Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data made public due to gag orders placed on lawsuits and settlements from these service providers to accurately represent the odds of something going wrong the next time you use an app to hail a ride from a TNC.  If you’ve been hurt while using a rideshare, or involved in a collision with a rideshare service driver, you may already be aware of these pitfalls and the uncertainty in identifying the party(ies) responsible. 

As rideshare accident attorneys in California, we can help.  Consultations are free. 

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Are Traffic Fatalities Rising in California from the Use of Rideshare Services?

Traffic Fatalities Rising in California from the Use of Rideshare Services

A rideshare accident lawyer is someone we hope you will never need, but we understand why we’re needed.  When Transportation Network Service drivers like those for Uber and Lyft that offer ridesharing services are involved in a collision there are usually three or more entities involved in the claim which amounts to a lot of phone calls and hair-pulling levels of frustration.  If there is an injury as a result of a vehicle collision with a rideshare driver as a passenger, driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, then the stakes are even higher due to medical costs and lost wages during recovery.  A catastrophic injury or loss of life from a rideshare accident is the worst-case scenario for someone to have to face and no one should face this alone.  And with the increase in rideshare use, injuries and fatalities are an unfortunate reality. 

There’s no doubt rideshare services are rapidly increasing in popularity.  The California Mid-State Fair is held near our office in Paso Robles (we can even hear the concerts from our office!) and in recent years the site relocated the free shuttle services to make room for rideshare pick-ups and drop-offs directly in front of the venue.  Local residents who charge patrons to park in their yard even dropped prices this year, too.  The convenience of ridesharing is undeniable.  But at what cost?

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority commissioned their own study looking at VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and found that Uber and Lyft are the ‘biggest contributors’ to San Francisco’s traffic congestion. Uber and Lyft came forward with their own study this month from a transportation consultancy review of six cities, including San Francisco, and again found that there is a statistically significant increase in traffic congestion brought on from these rideshare services – as much as 13.4% in San Francisco County, with a noticeable increase closer to the city’s core.  The data has been increasing as rideshare and transportation network service use increases.

Traffic congestion is certainly a nuisance, but what does this mean for traffic fatalities in San Francisco and California as a whole?  California has been one of the states with the highest traffic fatality rates for many years.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes statistics on traffic accidents with fatalities including pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities from vehicle collisions (see our chart below).

California's Traffic Deaths: 1985; 2008-2018
California’s Traffic Deaths: 1985; 2008-2018

If we were to compare California’s traffic fatality rate in 1985 (4,960) to California in 2017 (3,602), you can see that the rate of traffic accident fatalities is down overall, but looking at more recent years (since 2014), the traffic collision death rate is going back up.  Now, keep in mind that California is currently the state with the second most pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities involving traffic collisions (Florida is first), which means many of these victims are pedestrians or people riding a bicycle, something San Francisco is working very hard to end with the Vision Zero initiative.  

If you’re wondering how rideshare accidents have anything to do with traffic fatalities in San Francisco, you may want to read this recent study from the University of Chicago and Rice University, “The Cost of Convenience: Ridehailing and Traffic Fatalities,” which found a correlation to the increase in fatal car crashes and the launching of Uber and Lyft in the cities they examined.  They found an increase of about 3% in the number of traffic fatalities for both vehicle occupants and pedestrians/bicyclists which has been the complete opposite of what many people expected.  The idea behind transportation network services was to assist in convenience and provide an alternative for people who are or will likely be impaired and unable to drive themselves; which is a great idea on the surface as there were nearly 11,000 people killed by impaired drivers in 2017 and more than 1,000 of these people were pedestrians.

But this study and others like it have been hindered by the transportation network service providers in finding the total number of accidents and fatalities directly caused by or involving a rideshare driver.  Uber, as an example, requires injured parties who seek lawful compensation for their injuries to sign a confidentiality clause as a condition of settlement.  These confidentiality clauses are often referred to as ‘gag orders’ because they suppress the information and effectively keep the statistics of injuries and/or fatalities caused by drivers within their network from public scrutiny and reports.  This makes it nearly impossible to provide hard data demonstrating that traffic fatalities are rising in California from the use of rideshare services.  The associated increase of 3% in traffic-related fatalities due to ridesharing accidents may be an understatement.

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