It goes without saying that drinking and driving in any amount is generally a bad idea for ridesharing drivers who wish to remain in good standing as an independent contractor for Uber or Lyft. And, while these companies do have strict policies against driving under the influence — Uber permanently deactivates the account of any driver who is caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for example — state laws on driver alcohol limits are a different matter altogether.

In a new law focused on improving passenger safety, the state of California has expressly clarified the legal alcohol limit permitted for rideshare drivers.

California’s New Alcohol Limit for Rideshare Drivers

The new alcohol limit law for rideshare drivers took effect on July 1, 2018. The newly effective law has officially lowered the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for rideshare drivers and other drivers paid to transport passengers from 0.08 to 0.04.

Commercial drivers are already familiar with this heightened standard for BAC, and now rideshare drivers will be held to these same standards. Effectively, this also means that rideshare drivers can face significant fines and even jail time for violating this law.

Given the low BAC amount, the best practice for Uber and Lyft drivers is to not drink at all. Arguably, this should have always been the case to prioritize passenger safety, but it is especially important now that the new law took effect.

Uber Has Previously Argued Ridesharing Reduces Drunk Driving (But the Data Is Mixed)

Rideshare companies have long touted that ridesharing can cut down on drunk driving and drunk driving-related accidents. In fact, Uber’s website has made express claims arguing that a passenger’s ability to get a ride in minutes and at the push of a button when drinking "are helping to curb drunk driving."

A study from University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at the effects of ridesharing within specific cities, and they found that some cities do indeed show a correlation between Uber’s presence and a drunk driving decline. Some cities, however, showed no improvement.

The research team hypothesized this may be the case because rideshare drivers are more likely distracted by monitoring their mobile device, which may offset the reduced risk of drunk driving.

Is Distracted Driving the Larger Safety Issue for Rideshare Passengers?

As such, while the new California law is a welcome one for improving passenger safety and holding rideshare drivers to a higher standard of care, questions remain. Namely, it seems arguable in light of recent research that the larger issue jeopardizing passenger safety is distracted driving, not drunk driving.

If this hypothesis is correct, then passenger safety will be a more difficult issue to fix, particularly given the importance of a rideshare driver’s mobile device. Drivers who want to make money quickly must constantly check their phone and be on the lookout for new passengers, which according to the University of Pennsylvania team, may offset the reduction of alcohol crashes.

No matter the cause behind a rideshare accident, it is important for accident victims to protect their legal rights by speaking with a Ledger Law rideshare accident lawyer. To find out whether we believe you are entitled to legal compensation, contact us online for a free case evaluation today.

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