For most people, driving is more hazardous than any other work activity they do. Federal government statistics indicate that transportation accidents account for approximately 40% of all job-related injury deaths annually.
The number of deaths recorded for the broad occupational group of “motor vehicle operators” have exceeded those for any other broad group, again for decades. In 2016, 1,012 drivers died. In 2017, 1,084 drivers died.
Moreover, most of us think we are better than average drivers. Driving is the classic example of what psychologists call “optimism bias.” Most of us share the tendencies to underestimate risks, overrate our ability to avoid them, and believe our driving competencies are better than they are. Even setting aside our abilities, many other drivers may not be capable, and some may be drunk.
But most of us do not drive every hour we work. Driving disproportionally kills people who drive the most.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains two data sets that are the gold standard for investigating dangerous jobs: the Survey of Occupational (non-fatal) Injuries and Illness and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. BLS places Uber and Lyft drivers within the “taxicab and chauffeur” occupation and the “taxicab and limousine service” industry. BLS places GrubHub drivers within the “driver/sales workers” occupation and “local messengers and delivery” industry.
I used recent BLS data to estimate risks and job percentile rankings. The non-fatal injury rate estimate for Uber and Lyft drivers is 173.8 per 10,000 full-time workers, with percentile rank 13.0. This indicates that 86.9% of jobs have lower injury rates and 12.9% have higher injury rates.
The fatality rate for Uber and Lyft drivers is 14.6 per 100,000 full-time workers, with percentile rank 19.4. This indicates that 80.5% of jobs have lower fatality risks and 19.3% have higher fatality risks.
For GrubHub drivers, the non-fatality rate is 205.7 per 10,000 with percentile rank 9.0; the fatality rate is 24.8 per-100,000 with percentile rank 10.6.
My estimates also indicate that Uber and Lyft drivers face fatal risks that are 1.1 and 2.6 times the fatality rate for police officers and firefighters. The corresponding estimates for GrubHub drivers are 2.0 and 4.4.
These high-risk statistics are not new. Occupational death and injury rates for the categories of taxi driver and driver/sales worker have been very high for decades. My studies using data from the 1980s and 1990s placed taxi drivers and driver/sales workers within the top 1% to 10%.
Are these injury rate estimates too high or too low?
One “too high” criticism is that whereas taxi drivers work full time, many Uber, Lyft and GrubHub drivers do not.
But when gig workers are not driving, they are not gig drivers. Total deaths for gig drivers may be less than total deaths for taxi drivers, but the relevant statistic is their risk while working. That’s exactly what the BLS data measures.
Another “too high” criticism is that many deaths and injuries for taxi drivers result from assaults by riders, and this risk may not apply to gig drivers. But gig riders also can be inebriated. In addition, higher percentages of gig drivers are female, compared to taxicab drivers. Females are more often the target of rape.
Finally, driver/sales workers (say, for GrubHub) do not drive riders.
A “too low” criticism is the likelihood that taxi drivers are more aware of risks. They know and converse with co-workers; they are frequently unionized; and they have newsletters, magazines, and professional websites. Knowledge of risks likely improves their safe driving abilities.
A second “too low” criticism involves conditions of employment. Taxi drivers are typically employees, whereas gig drivers are independent contractors. Taxi drivers, but not gig drivers, fall under OSHA jurisdiction.Taxi companies must pay workers compensation insurance premiums; gig companies do not. These premiums provide companies with an economic incentive to reduce driver injuries. Some taxi companies, including those in San Francisco, require safety training.
A third “too low” criticism is that gig drivers are more likely young with less work experience than taxi drivers. Both are strong predictors of vehicle accidents. Considering that the “too low” criticisms appear stronger than the “too high” ones and that the 19.4% estimate is an outlier, Uber, Lyft and Grubhub drivers are likely within the top 13% to top 1% of the most dangerous jobs in the country. In addition, their death rates range from 10% to 340% higher than police officers and firefighters.
Finally, Uber (and likely all gig) drivers are not rewarded for taking these risks: whereas taxi drivers are paid approximately $14 to $21 per hour, Uber drivers are paid approximately $12 per hour.
Original Source: https://www.sfchronicle.com