Ridesharing drivers at high risk for fatigue, sleepiness

Back in April 2018, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a position statement in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine regarding the safety risks of the ridesharing industry. Ridesharing drivers in West Virginia, as elsewhere in the U.S., typically work during extended periods of wakefulness like the late nights and early mornings. This can be due to low fare and salary incentives combined with a feeling that sleep is unimportant.

The result of this trend is sleep deprivation and drowsy driving. Moreover, most ridesharing drivers are independent contractors who are not screened for medical conditions that could reduce their alertness behind the wheel, such as obstructive sleep apnea, so the risk goes undetected.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that there are an average of 328,000 drowsy driving crashes every year in the U.S., including 109,000 that result in injuries and 64,000 in fatalities. In its 2017-2018 Most Wanted List, the National Transportation Safety Board placed the reduction of fatigue-related accidents among the top 10 most critical changes.

As for the AASM, it's calling for collaborative efforts by ridesharing companies, government officials, medical professionals and law enforcement to address the issue. Some changes have already been made. For instance, Uber now requires drivers to go offline for six hours after driving for 12. Lyft requires a six-hour break for every 14 hours.

Drowsy driving is a form of negligent driving, so if it's behind an accident, those who are injured may be able to file a claim. In West Virginia, plaintiffs can be awarded damages if they are less than 50 percent to blame for a crash. The defendant's auto insurance company can aggressively deny payment, though, so victims may benefit from hiring legal counsel. A lawyer might negotiate for a fair settlement covering medical expenses, property damage, lost wages and more.

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