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Despite concern over increased distracted driving associated with smartphone use, a growing number of taxi drivers find themselves in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.

“Ride-hailing” services such as Uber and Lyft send calls for taxi fares to taxi drivers by way of their smartphones.  Drivers typically have only 15 seconds to “tap” the screen of their phone to accept the fare.  In making the decision to accept the fare, the driver must look at his phone to determine how far away the patron is, diverting his attention from operating the taxi.  If a driver does not respond to the service call within 15 seconds, another driver will get the customer.  In several cities, including New York, a driver’s failure to respond and accept several customers in a row can result in suspension of the driver.

When drivers must respond immediately to their smartphones in order to earn a living, it is easy to recognize the potential for dangerous distracted driving.  Deborah Hersman, chief executive of the National Safety Council and former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board pointed out that responding to the ride hailing application takes visual, manual and cognitive attention.  She said “It’s conditioned.  You get a ding, you respond, you get a ride, you get money, you get paid.  There’s not a whole lot of debate this is distracting.”

Even the chief executive of Flywheel – the software used by taxi drivers to obtain fares – admitted that there were hazards associated with its use.  “We’ve got to come up with thikngs that are safer,” he said.

A representative of Uber stated that “Safety is our top priority” and claimed that the application was “designed with safety in mind.”  Earlier this month, vehicular manslaughter charges were filed against an Uber driver, who struck and killed a child in a crosswalk last year.  In addition, two separate lawsuits have been filed against Uber and Lyft alleging negligence by violation of California’s hand-held electronic device prohibition.  The suit against Uber was filed in connection with the wrongful death of the 6-year girl who was killed.

The personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List are experienced in handling cases involving distracted driving. If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident and you believe that the driver responsible for the accident was distracted, contact Clark, Perdue & List.