San Francisco, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – A new report has found that ride share drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents, and less likely to have adequate insurance to cover themselves.
The study, from gigworker.com, asked more than 500 Uber and Lyft drivers a number of questions about their work life and their insurance. More than half of the drivers said they do not have ride share insurance to protect them if they are involved in an accident.
According to the study, ride share drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents, as well. More than two-thirds of the respondents say they drive more than 300 miles per week. According to an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the risk of being involved in an automobile accident increases the more miles a person drives. In the U.S., drivers average about 250 miles per week.
Survey respondents told Gigworker they drive more than that, with 25 percent saying they drive as much as 700 miles per week.
Additionally, many of the survey respondents said they were 50 years of age or older. Only 39.4 percent of the drivers said they were under 50. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older drivers are more at risk for fatalities due to collisions.
“Older drivers, particularly those aged 75+, have higher crash death rates than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54). Higher crash death rates among this age group are primarily due to increased vulnerability to injury in a crash,” the CDC said on its website. “Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, might affect some older adults’ driving abilities.
Many of the drivers who responded to the survey thought that their ride share company’s insurance would cover them if they were involved in a crash. However, the report said, in the case of Uber, insurance is for liability only, and piggybacks on the driver’s personal automobile insurance, which could be cancelled if the insurance provider finds that the driver was driving for a ride share company without additional ride share insurance.
Because they are considered independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance for either company. In 2017, Uber rolled out an opt-in insurance plan that would cover drivers in the event of an accident, but said the insurance should not be considered workers’ compensation.
Brad Nail, Uber’s senior risk and public policy manager based in Washington, told the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Workers Compensation Task Force in 2018 that the program was an opportunity for drivers.
“I think we start by identifying that there is an opportunity — there is in fact some need — around benefits for Uber drivers, as an example,” he said. “Some of those drivers can benefit from insurance coverage to protect them from work-related injuries. Uber drivers are classified as independent contractors and thus do not receive traditional workers compensation.”
Drivers pay for the coverage themselves. The insurance costs 3.5 cents per mile, but was mitigated at the time of its roll-out by Uber which simultaneously raised its fares 5 cents per mile.
“This way the cost does not have to be a factor in the driver’s decision to opt in for the program,” Nail said at the 2018 meeting. “We don’t make any money off of this transaction. It’s between the insurer and insured. We merely pass through the premium from the insured to the insurer without retaining any of that premium for ourselves.”
But Uber clearly states on its policy documents that the insurance is not a workers’ compensation policy.
“We don’t want there to be any confusion among those who purchase it about the benefits they are receiving,” he said. “It’s very clear that it’s not a workers comp policy even though some of the benefits that are provided are similar in nature to what you would receive under workers comp.”
The insurance is available in all states except N.Y., where drivers are covered by a statutorily created fund that covers on-demand drivers.
Uber did not respond to questions about how many Uber drivers took advantage of the program, or what the demographics of their drivers was.