Uber passenger in US takes the wheel for sleepy driver, leads police on highway chase

The Uber car service application is displayed on an iPhone in New York.
The Uber car service application is displayed on an iPhone in New York.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Juan R. Carlos led the New York State Police on a highway chase, when his Uber driver gave him the keys to the car, on April 2, 2016.
Juan R. Carlos led the New York State Police on a highway chase, when his Uber driver gave him the keys to the car, on April 2, 2016.PHOTO: NEW YORK STATE POLICE

A 20-year-old Uber passenger led the police on a highway chase in New York when his driver gave him his car keys so that he could take a nap.

Last Saturday (April 2), Juan R. Carlos had hired an Uber car to travel from Philadelphia to a college in Herkimer, New York, a journey of about 280km.

The state police said the incident happened at about 5.35am, when a 2016 Hyundai Sonata tore down the Interstate highway at nearly 140kmh, as they were monitoring traffic in Kirkwood, a town near the Pennsylvania border.

Police tried to stop the car, but it sped up and they eventually lost sight of it.

According to reports, Uber driver Corey Robinson, 43, had become tired during the ride and turned the keys over to his passenger while he slept.

Mr Robinson later woke up and asked Carlos why he was driving so fast. Carlos replied that the police were chasing them.

Mr Robinson demanded that Carlos pull over, but the latter refused.

The car then crashed into a guard rail in Colesville, where police found the pair.

No one was seriously injured.

Police said that the men were taken into custody, but Mr Robinson was released without charges.

Carlos was charged with unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree, driving without a licence and several other traffic violations, according to the police.

Uber said in a statement on Wednesday (April 6) that both the driver and the rider had been suspended from using the service, and that the company was "reaching out to the authorities to assist in their investigation".

In a separate statement, Uber posted an article on its website about the perils of driving while drowsy on Tuesday, although it did not explicitly refer to Saturday's highway chase.

"While the dangers of drunk driving are now well known, drowsy driving is still a silent epidemic," the post said.

"Join us in making drowsy driving a thing of the past - as socially unacceptable as drunk driving is today."