Airline pilots have government-mandated rest periods between flights, and lorry drivers also are supposed to have a minimum number of sleep hours between trips. Now, Uber says it will require its US drivers to take at least six hours off after every 12 hours they are on call looking for passengers.

Sachin Kansal, Uber’s director of product management, said in a blog post announcing the policy that the goal is to reduce drowsy driving. A recent report from the National Sleep Foundation found that 3 per cent of American drivers admitted falling asleep behind the wheel during the previous two weeks.

“While nearly 60 percent of US drivers use Uber less than ten hours a week, we want to do our part to help prevent drowsy driving,” wrote Kansal.

Uber will automatically track drivers’ on-call and driving time, issuing warnings when the 12-hour limit is approaching. Drivers who reach the limit will be barred from using the app for the next six hours.

“This move will strengthen our approach to help keep riders and drivers safe on the road while preserving the flexibility drivers tell us they love,” according to Kansal.

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