The last thing a passenger wants when they get into a car is to see distracted driving by the person in control of the vehicle—and that’s a huge problem in Florida, which among U.S. states ranks second only to Louisiana for distracted driving—more than five distracted driving crashes take place every hour in Florida, almost 50,000 a year.
If you were ever a customer of a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft, you know that drivers rely on their phones to conduct their jobs. They need a smartphone to identify their customers, map their destinations, and transact payments. But using a phone while driving is always risky, and depending on the circumstances, it can be extremely dangerous.
Many states have outlawed texting and driving, and some have also placed limits on even talking on the phone and driving. Because such laws are generally well known, passengers will often speak up if they see their driver texting, but what if they are trying to follow the best route by using a phone-provided map? Does using a GPS on a phone qualify as distracted driving?
Using GPS Behind the Wheel
GPS has a number of advantages, and gives drivers the exact directions needed to get to their destinations. Many mapping options will also notify drivers about the fastest journey, new accidents ahead, and other issues that should prompt a change to the intended route. GPS is therefore an important tool for Uber and Lyft drivers—as long as it is us used safely.
Customers of Uber and Lyft expect their drivers will know the cities or areas where they drive. However, generally knowing their way around does not necessarily mean drivers have every street and landmark memorized. It is reasonable to anticipate that drivers may need GPS to successfully navigate from Point A to Point B, and also need it to avoid traffic, road works, and other delays. That said, it is not safe for a driver to input information, such as an address, or make other GPS adjustments while the vehicle is in motion.
Florida Law and Distracted Driving
Under Florida law, driving while using a cellular device to send, read, or write text-based messages (texting and driving) is prohibited. However, using a GPS is not prohibited, even if the GPS is on the driver’s cell phone. This means Florida’s distracted driving laws have not caught up with those of many other states, where any use of a cellular device while behind the wheel is prohibited.
While programming a GPS can definitely qualify as distracted driving, simply glancing at it, or tapping the screen to have the automated voice repeat directions, is not necessarily so. Such behaviors are unlikely to be ticketed, and rarely rise to the level of risk that distracted driving typically carries.
Despite Florida law, using a GPS device for more than a glance or simple tap can constitute distracted driving because it may make a driver less aware of the road and everything happening outside of the vehicle. Programming a GPS on a phone may be more dangerous than other common behaviors, such as eating behind the wheel and adjusting the car’s music or temperature controls, and can certainly be just as dangerous as using a phone for other reasons, like texting.
What to Do If Your Rideshare Driver is Distracted
Distracted driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for a passenger to decide how to respond if a driver is distracted because of GPS activity.
If you are a rideshare customer and your driver is distracted behind the wheel, either by GPS or some other reason, take these steps to help ensure a safer ride for everyone:
- Ask your driver to pull over while they program their GPS. It may add time to your trip for a driver to pull over, especially if they have already entered heavy traffic and need to navigate back to a safe stopping place. However, the cost of a few extra minutes of time is vastly outweighed by the safety and welfare of yourself and others. Do not hesitate to be honest and clear with your driver, and know that you are absolutely entitled to request that they adhere to all road safety rules and driver best practices.
- Ask your driver to program the GPS before you start driving to your destination. Reduce the likelihood of distracted driving by addressing it in advance. This request is particularly important if you are going to a location that may be difficult to find.
- Do not be afraid to end the ride. If you are riding with a driver who is constantly checking their phone, whether they’re texting and driving or spending too long staring at the GPS, it is acceptable and appropriate to end the ride and summon a different driver. Err on the side of caution, and find an alternative rather than sticking with a driver engaged in unsafe behavior. It is always better to arrive late than not at all because of an accident caused by distracted driving.
- Leave a review. If you have a rideshare experience with a driver who is distracted behind the wheel, make sure you leave a review for all potential future riders. Your review may serve to rebuke the driver, and prevent someone else from agreeing to a ride with a driver who could endanger them and others.
- Offer to help navigate. If your Uber or Lyft driver is struggling to safely drive while navigating, offer to help. This may be in the form of offering directions to a location you’ve been before, communicating upcoming turns, or using the GPS on your phone on the driver’s behalf. Your driver is responsible for your transportation, but you are ultimately responsible for your own welfare. By helping with navigation, you may get to your destination faster, more safely, and more easily.
Get Legal Help After a Distracted Driving Accident
If you have been involved in an accident because your rideshare driver was using their GPS while driving, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Write Uber Car Accident Law or dial (305) 964-8806 for a free consultation to learn if we can help you.