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Ride-Sharing Programs May Increase the Risk of Distraction for Taxi Drivers

You know better than to answer the “ping” of your cellphone while driving. Not only is answering texts while driving illegal, it’s also incredibly dangerous—and stowing your phone is part of being a responsible driver. But what if your daily drive required you to use your cellphone regularly, and could even cost you money if you didn’t respond?

Ride-Sharing Services Require Cellphone Use Behind the Wheel

Cellphones have drastically changed the way we live our lives, allowing us to get immediate responses with the click of a button. One of the newest innovations allows people to order a cab with a cellphone app, saving them from waiting on the curb for a passing taxi. While this may be a boon for city travelers, taxi and ride-share drivers are under extreme pressure to respond to calls quickly—and if they do not use their phones while driving, they may lose the fare.

The following program platforms require at least some level of distraction from the road:

  • Uber. When a customer requests a ride through the Uber app, a loud beeping noise is transmitted to the phones of drivers in the area. If a driver wants the fare, he taps the phone screen and the beeping stops. While the beeping is a distraction in itself, drivers have only 15 seconds to accept the fare—that is, 15 seconds to gauge where the customer is, decide if he can make it to that part of town, and respond—and in some cities, a failure to answer calls can lead to an Uber driver’s suspension.
  • Lyft. While Lyft uses a similar interface, drivers are given up to 20 seconds to respond to a call. Still, this requires calculating driving routes and reaching out for the phone while weaving through city streets in all kinds of weather conditions.
  • Local taxis. The competition of ride-sharing services may actually encourage distracted driving among licensed cab companies. In an effort to win back some of their lost business, a growing number of taxi drivers turn to apps (such as Flywheel) that alert drivers when customers request a taxi. Much like the Uber and Lyft platforms, the fastest driver to respond gets the fare.

There’s no denying that responding to cellphone request requires visual, cognitive, and manual distraction; the question is, is the level of distraction enough to lead to an accident? Drivers may be willing to take on the risk—after all, it’s how they earn their living—but all passengers are automatically assuming the risk as well.

Do you know someone who regularly uses taxis or Uber services in New Jersey? Share this article on Facebook to see if your friends have noticed cellphone distractions in their ride-sharing drivers.


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