Clark Howard

Uber institutes mandatory 6-hour break for its most active drivers

When you summon an Uber, how often do you think about your driver’s well-being?

Do we know where he or she has traveled in the last hour – or last few hours? Do you have any idea how rested the person behind the wheel is?

Now, the company is putting a priority on driver health — and, by extension, customer safety — and hoping both are ultimately good for its bottom line.

Uber moves to drive safety with mandatory break time

The company announced this week that it is introducing a feature in its app that counts driver hours and can mandate a six-hour break to curtail drowsiness behind the wheel.

The company hopes the new rules announced Monday in an Uber blog post — which include a feature that will shut down the app for those who have been driving for 12 straight hours — mean you'll be less likely to get a driver who is sleepy or fatigued.

After the six-hour period of inactivity, drivers will be allowed to accept rides again, Uber said. The feature has already been rolled out in select U.S. cities.

“This new feature has tremendous potential to protect not only Uber driver-partners, but also their passengers and, ultimately, all road users,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said in the news release.

Uber told the Washington Post that the company won't count time spent on the app but not driving. It also won't track hours of drivers who are behind the wheel on their personal time or driving for another service.

While the news was mostly welcomed by customers, there are critics who say that the new technology effectively penalizes the ridesharing service’s most active drivers, many of whom depend on fares for their incomes.

The new rules come as ridesharing companies look to integrate more safety features into their respective apps.

3 rules of the road when using a ridesharing app

Before you use any ridesharing service, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of something bad happening. Here are a few of them:

Tell someone where you're going: Since ridesharing apps typically only involve the driver and rider, the process can be largely hidden from the public. That's why it's a good idea to tell someone — either a neighbor, your parents or friends —when you're taking a ridesharing service and your destination. Uber has a nifty "Share Status" feature that makes it easy to inform someone of your whereabouts.

Write down the make & model of the vehicle: Before you get inside a stranger's vehicle — even if they work for a ridesharing service — it's a good idea to record the make and model of the car just in case you need to identity it later.

Review the driver's rating: Uber allows users to rate each other so that riders and drivers are aware of what they might be getting into when they enter the contract for a ride. This system generally serves as a deterrent to errant behavior by either the driver or rider, but you might choose to avoid driver with lower ratings.

RELATED: Uber accused of hacking, spying on competitors

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