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Drowsy drivers plague ridesharing industry

The ridesharing industry in Louisiana and across the U.S. is facing a problem of drowsy drivers. Many drivers, compelled by low fares and salary incentives, choose to work even when they are drowsy. Since most are independent contractors, they are never screened for conditions like obstructive sleep apnea that can reduce their alertness even more.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine brought attention to this issue back in April 2018. In a position statement, the AASM called on ridesharing companies, law enforcement, medical professionals and government officials to collaborate on ways to reduce fatigue-related crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board included the reduction of these crashes in its 2017-2018 Most Wanted List.

Some measures are in place, but the AASM considers them insufficient. For example, Uber requires that its drivers go offline for six consecutive hours after working 12 total hours. Lyft requires the same after 14 hours. However, drivers can circumvent this rule by holding multiple jobs. The regulation also does not address how drivers work during peak sleepiness periods, like early in the morning and late at night.

Education is an important step since many ridesharing drivers underrate sleep. The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project's Awake at the Wheel campaign is currently educating drivers on the warning signs of drowsiness.

Drowsy driving is behind an average of 328,000 car crashes every year in the U.S., according to AAA estimates. If a driver ignores his or her sleepiness and causes a motor vehicle accident as a result, his or her auto insurance company will likely be facing a personal injury claim. Victims can hire a lawyer to assist with the gathering of proof against the defendant and the settlement negotiations. A successful claim can cover medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages and more. If a settlement cannot be achieved, an attorney can litigate.

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